By David Walliams
Published by HarperCollins
There aren't many novels that offer you a free set of false teeth when you purchase them, but this is exactly what you get as a gift when you buy David Walliams' latest book, Demon Dentist.
With his off-the-wall sense of humour, kind and exciting characters, and the tension, fun and mischief that pack every page of his writing, David Walliams is a breath of fresh air in the world of young people's fiction.
Over the past few years he has had phenomenal success as a children's author. His books have sold over two million copies in Britain alone. Walliams' new, jaw-achingly addictive novel comes in at over four hundred pages. It also has the feel of a real novel about it, whereas some of his previous offerings have felt a bit like stretched short stories.
Walliams certainly hits the funny bone with this hilarious saga about something nasty lurking in the dentist's surgery. Young Alfie has very bad teeth, and every time an appointment has been made for him to visit the dentist, he has somehow wriggled out of going. Result: a mouth full of yellow teeth.
Alfie leads a sad little life because his father is seriously ill and it's Alfie's responsibility to care for him. The two of them have no money, and Alfie is teased at school because of the holes in his clothes.
But Alfie and his dad love each other, and Alfie wouldn't have it any other way. Walliams avoids the patronising approach so many writers use these days when their central character is a young teen with home problems.
Instead, Walliams is never afraid to tackle difficult topics in a way that will appeal to youngsters.
Alfie, like thousands of kids all over the world, sometimes leaves a dropped-out tooth under his pillow at night for the Tooth Fairy to swap for a coin.
When disgusting things like a wasp's nest, cat poo, dirty socks and dead bats are discovered under pillows instead of coins, Alfie and his best friend Gabz realise that something evil is at work. And they're right! Enter Miss Root, the demon dentist with a sinister secret.
If you're thinking this book is just for kids, you could not be more wrong. It is better and fresher than most books aimed at 'adult' readers.
It has shivers and mischief, and the plot is brimming with adventure. This is Walliams' best book to date, reaching high standards of humour but also keeping one foot firmly in the real word.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com