Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Title: The Goldfish Boy
Author: Lisa Thompson
Published by: Scholastic
Publication date: 5th January 2017
Pages: 394
Genres: Children's/Middle-grade/Mystery/Mental health
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.


Matthew Corbin suffers from severe OCD. He hasn't been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child's life... but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

YA books about mental health are hard to come by - and children's books are even harder. That's why I was so excited to hear about The Goldfish Boy, a children's book that features a 12-year-old male protagonist suffering with OCD. Young people can have mental health problems too... yet there isn't much available for them in terms of literature.

I don't have any experience with OCD so I can't comment on whether or not the representation of this illness was good, but the things I could relate to - agoraphobia, therapy, recovery - were done very well. It leaves us on a positive note, too, which I think is incredibly important in books about mental health - especially those aimed at children - as we already have enough to worry about, without a book telling us the future is going to be rubbish, too!

However, whilst I was excited that this book deals with mental illness, and whilst I think it was covered well, it definitely wasn't my favourite. The Goldfish Boy took me a couple of weeks to get through (practically unheard of for me!) due to nothing much happening in the first half. Something else that irked me was the repetitive statement that Matthew, our protagonist, was to blame for the death of his baby brother, Callum. 'What I did to my brother' was casually plonked in here and there in a clumsy attempt to hook the reader, and it didn't feel natural. I appreciate why Matthew thought he was to blame, and I was interested in that, but the attempt to draw me in just didn't quite seem to work.

However, I genuinely had no idea throughout the entire story who had taken the little boy next door, Teddy. No clue. I usually guess, or at least have a rough idea, so the fact that this book managed to keep me completely in the dark is a huge plus.

Was this a bad book? Despite my low rating - no. It's a sweet read that I think children will appreciate and be helped by. Unfortunately, it wasn't 100% my cup of tea!

1 comment:

  1. Oh I got a sample of this at this years YALC, it seems like a very sweet story. I hope it helps a younger audience because as you mentioned, mental health books for middle graders are hard to come by!

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