(Reviewed for Scholastic as a teacher reviewer. Copy given in exchange for an honest review.)
The Goldfish Boy is about Matthew, a 12-year-old boy with(Reviewed for Scholastic as a teacher reviewer. Copy given in exchange for an honest review.)
The Goldfish Boy is about Matthew, a 12-year-old boy with OCD, who turns detective when his neighbour's grandson, Teddy, goes missing. With the help of an unexpected friend or two, he sets out to uncover the mystery of who took the toddler and to bring him home safe and sound.
Matthew's voice was incredibly unique, and the narration allowed for a really clear view of his thought processes as he struggled to deal with his condition. It was easy to understand how he his mindset had become what it is throughout the story, and it's impossible not to feel for him. The little 'diary' entries we see of Matthew's observations of the outside world are a great addition, as are the emails between him, Melody and Jake – his investigative partners! The way Matthew's OCD is presented in the book is really accessible for Primary School children. It allows for understanding of a condition that can be tricky to comprehend if it's not been seen or experienced before, and Matthew's story does this with empathy and without making him appear alien. He is still very much a relatable character for many children.
The mystery is a really nice plot line for the book. It not only drives Matthew's story forward and gives his character purpose and a reason to push through his illness, it also provides opportunities for the child reader to predict what they think may happen next, or who they think may have taken Teddy. There are plenty of clues to follow and red herrings to lead the reader astray! This would generate a lot of great discussion if the book was read in the classroom, and lead to a number of great activities inspired by the mystery.
Matthew's supporting cast of characters are varied and interesting as well. He watches his neighbour's like one might watch a soap opera, taking in everything that happens around him, despite having cut himself off physically from the outside world. His mother and father provide a great discussion point around reactions of others to those with OCD, and how people cope with mental illnesses differently. And the therapist is a brilliant 'voice of reason', aiding to give further understanding to Matthew's condition. She also presents as a 'safe adult', giving children confidence that they can talk about their problems, be heard, understood and taken seriously, which is a really great message to give any child reading this!
I will definitely be putting a copy or two of The Goldfish Boy into the reading corner of my classroom. I know that my Year 6 class will enjoy it just as much as I have, and I look forward to discussing it with every child who reads it. ...more
What a great ending to this story! I'm in love with Celestine – her bravery and compassion are huge! I would definitely recommend this stunning duologWhat a great ending to this story! I'm in love with Celestine – her bravery and compassion are huge! I would definitely recommend this stunning duology....more
I went into The Problem with Forever knowing very little about it. I often quite like to do this – it means that even any details revealed in the synoI went into The Problem with Forever knowing very little about it. I often quite like to do this – it means that even any details revealed in the synopsis are a surprise, and often that’s a good thing. All I knew about this book was that it’s a contemporary YA about a girl who was in foster care. I possibly knew a little more than that when I first requested it, but that was all I could remember when I did eventually start reading.
In a way, going in blind was a good thing; it meant that the abuse Mallory and Rider suffered was a real shock and something I didn’t expect to that severity. However, going in without knowing anything about the story may have contributed to my initial confusion at the beginning of the story. After the (pretty horrifying) prologue, we get right into the story, following Mallory’s first day at high school after being home-schooled for the past four years. She soon begins meeting people, including the characters who will soon become more central to her story; Keira, Jayden, Hector and (of course) Rider. But in the beginning, I was confused between Jayden and Rider. They were introduced quite close to each other and – I don’t know if it was just me here – to begin with, I was convinced that they were the same person, but Rider had changed his name after what had happened to them as children. I’m not really too sure if it was just me that was confused by this, but it did take me a couple of chapters to straighten it out in my head and figure out what was going on.
Despite this it wasn’t long before I was truly drawn into the story and started getting to know the characters well. Mallory’s character was easy to get to know – the story is from her point of view, and the way her thoughts and (initially minimal) speech were written really allowed me to ‘hear’ her. Her pauses communicate her doubts and her fear, and the difference between what she thinks and what she eventually says speaks huge truths about her want to stay invisible. And her backstory explains perfectly why she is the way she is. But despite all of Mallory’s hardships, she does change and progress throughout the novel, which was really satisfying to see (although I’m not 100% sure she would have been talking quite as freely as she was that quickly).
The characters that support Mallory are, however, just as important (as she herself admits at a later point in the novel). Rider is another big character, but I have to admit that I have quite mixed feelings about him. I did like him as a character, but I felt like I didn’t get to know him well enough. Yeah, you get to know the person he is now, and obviously we know how he grew up, as he shared those experiences with Mallory. But I did feel there was something lacking from the part of his story where he and Mallory were separated. I don’t think it was every fully explained what happened on the night of ‘the incident’ that tore the two of them apart, and I had expected to get to know that in detail. I did, however, like his character, and I found it interesting that his suffering was less visible than Mallory’s.
Now let’s take a step back for a moment and take a look at the romance. Yes, I understand that this book is largely a romance novel, but once I learned about the background of the characters, I had come to expect a little less of the gooey, sickly, “you’re so perfect” kind of romance, and more of a focus on plot. That’s not to say that the plot was lacking – it wasn’t, and I enjoyed the story immensely – but I do think that a lot of the ‘lovey-dovey’ could have been cut out. A lot of Mallory and Rider’s scenes did feel repetitious, and I felt a lot could have been cut away from them. They sometimes had a tendency to slow the story down a lot, and I found myself skim-reading through some of these scenes.
My other issue with the romance was that it took so damn long to happen. It was obvious from the moment that Mallory discovered Rider was attending the same school as her that a romance would blossom. So painfully obvious – to everyone but her, it seems. It was frustrating to watch the whole “he’s clearly not interested in me, even though he is” routine go on for that long (it was almost 60% of the way through before anything truly happened). My relief when it finally happened was tangible.
That really is it for the negative points though. The rest of the book was fantastic: the diversity of characters and personalities, the way the story dealt with truly difficult issues, the character-driven plot, and ALL THOSE FEELS. It wasn’t perhaps quite as emotional as I had been expecting, but it definitely managed to get at least a couple of emotion-kicks to the gut in before the story ended. Characters I hadn’t even known I cared about were making my face leak.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Problem With Forever. It was easy to get into, easy to like the characters and – despite the troubling subject matter – it was an easy read. I’m not sure I would rush to read more of Jennifer’s contemporary stuff, but I would definitely pick up more books by this author (probably a good job, seeing as I have quite a lot of it on my shelves!). This was a solid 3.5 stars, and I would recommend it to readers who enjoy a good romance and a good cry. ...more
Although this wasn't my favourite David Levithan collaboration novel, I still really enjoyed it, and I loved the fresh angle that Nina LaCour gave it.Although this wasn't my favourite David Levithan collaboration novel, I still really enjoyed it, and I loved the fresh angle that Nina LaCour gave it. At the very beginning of the book, I was convinced that this was going to be quite similar to the 'David and Rachel' books – boy meets girl at an evening event and they have a one-night adventure where, despite their differences, they begin to fall for one another. But no, this was not that. For one, the boy meets girl had a different purpose – Kate and Mark quickly become friends in order to help the other overcome their separate relationship woes. And another thing? Both of them are gay. That's right – a lesbian in a David Levithan novel! Thank you, Nina! This is a rare occurrence for David Levithan, his books mostly being about gay boys (not that I don’t love David, because I really do!).
It was refreshing to see a platonic relationship at the centre of the story, and also to not have the romances in the book written through rose-tinted glasses. Not everything works out as the characters want it to, which I felt was so much more true to life than if things had always gone their way. And these ups and downs allowed their characters to grow and to find themselves in amongst the messes that they found themselves stuck in at the beginning of the story.
The only thing I might pick up on about the friendship between Kate and Mark is that it happened way too quickly. Kate approaches Mark and simply asks him if he wants to be friends (while noting that that is a question only small children might ask). He accepts, and suddenly they're friends who would go out of their way to help each other. This doesn't strike me as completely real – would you really, as a teenager, trust someone that immediately (especially when it comes to something as personal as romantic problems)? I soon forgot this problem though. They worked so well together, despite how different they were, and the story they create together swept me up in its own unique whirlwind. And where the whirlwind dropped me at the end was equally as satisfying as any of David’s other books. The ending was a heart-warming and appropriate way to wave these characters goodbye.
Overall I enjoyed You Know Me Well; the characters felt real, the plot was interesting and I truly loved the platonic relationship of the two main characters. Not everything went to plan – especially when it came to their separate romantic interests – but that just made it feel all the more true to life. This is a quick and fun, and although light and easy to read, it’s still thought-provoking enough to stay in your thoughts. It won’t go down as one of my favourite David Levithan books, but I would definitely read it again in the future. ...more