By Mark Haddon
Published by David Fickling Books
ISBN 978 0 611773 4
In 2004, Mark Haddon wrote a brilliant novel called The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time. Once readers got past the intriguing title, they found that rare thing: a real crossover book that appealed to youngsters and adults alike. The book was a best-seller all over the world, and fans eagerly awaited Haddon’s next offering.
It has taken Haddon a rather long time to produce another youth fiction book. And with his new novel, Boom!, Haddon has done something unusual. He has gone back to a book he wrote pre-Night-Time, and has rewritten and improved it. You can’t keep a good idea down, and Boom!, in its new form, is an entertaining gem.
Teenager Jim lives with his out-of-work dad, his businesswoman mum and Goth elder sister in a small, cramped flat. Dad is depressed because he can’t get a job and spends all his time cooking experimental meals for his family. Jim prefers jam and cheese sandwiches, and he spends his time perfecting the perfect combo. He does have to go to school between making sandwiches, and it is here that the adventure begins.
Jim is not a good student, but he isn’t at the bottom of the pile either. He just lets his mind wander off to more interesting places when he should be concentrating in lessons. He is horrified when his best friend Charlie tells him he has heard a rumour that Jim is going to be sent to a special school. Something has to be done quickly.
Charlie and Jim do what anyone would do. They set up a walkie-talkie in the school staffroom so they can hear Jim’s teachers talking about him. But the two boys hear more than they bargained for. They hear Mrs Pearce and Mr Kidd talking to each other in a strange foreign language. Is it some sort of code? Perhaps Kidd and Pearce are spies or bank robbers?
The two boys decide to investigate further, and break into Mrs Pearce’s house for more information. What they find there sets them off on a very strange and dangerous journey.
Boom! is a zany and improbable fast-paced adventure that is completely crazy, and that is where all the fun lies. Haddon’s mix of clever characterisation, daft humour and quick plotting makes for a very enjoyable read. The dynamics between Jim and Charlie, one boy worried and uptight and the other fearless and ready for anything, are a delight to witness. These two characters are real boys that we all know.
The story bounces along from chapter to chapter with Haddon piling up the mayhem and improbability with expert ease. In the last part of the book, the story really takes off, in more ways than one. By now, Haddon has got the reader so much on his and Jim’s side, that when the story spirals out of control no questions are asked. Boom! is a treat. Any novel that includes a space spider called Britney must be worth a look.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com