Boom! Mark Haddon
The story itself is easy to explain-- Jim and Charlie are best friends who discover that there is something very, very, very weird about two of their teachers. Upon this discovery, Charlie gets kidnapped by the bad guys who are in league with their teachers. Jim and his sister chase Charlie across England and Scotland to get him back. Only, it doesn't end there... Let's just say there's a reason there's a rocket ship on the cover.
But, it's more than that. There are a lot of complicated family dynamics being played out. Jim's dad has been unemployed for a long time and is struggling with feelings of inadequecy and it's putting a strain on the marriage. Jim's sister Becky has a horrible boyfriend and wears a lot of of make-up and is all around not nice.
But, back to the bad guys. None of the adults believe what's going on (because, let's face it, if your kid told you that your teacher was wearing some weird wrist band and is totally freaky, and the police are totally in on it, you'd say "no more excuses, go do your homework" too, right?)
What makes this book so good though, is that it's gripping and suspenseful (once Charlie gets kidnapped) but it's also really funny. It's a very, very hard combination to do right (especially because this is laugh-out-loud funny, not dark comedy funny) but Haddon nails it.
It's also very, very British. I give David Fickling Books (part of Random House) credit for not translating this one-- it really retains its flavor and kids will get it, even if they aren't familiar with terms such as washing-up liquid, half five, or everything going a bit pear-shaped.
Interestingly, this is actually a rewrite of a book Haddon first published in 1992 (way before his big hit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is also why I'm not lumping him in the adult-authors-who-think-they-can-do-children's). It quickly went out of print but it had a following, so his publishers asked him to revise it for a new edition. Eventually he did, and ended up not revising so much as rewriting the whole thing. I'm glad he did though, because it's very fun.
Book Provided by... my local library
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