Marianne's Reviews > An Unusual Boy

An Unusual Boy by Fiona Higgins
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it was amazing
bookshelves: wishlist
Read 2 times. Last read August 29, 2020 to September 1, 2020.

“Every morning when I wake up, my beans are flying around inside me like popcorn in a pot. They bounce me out of bed and make me want to jump and dance and do a hundred push-ups, even when the rest of the world is sleeping.”

An Unusual Boy is the fourth novel by Australian author, Fiona Higgins. Eleven-year-old Jackson Curtis is a very special boy. He’s also a challenge for his family, but they love him and they’re (mostly) patient with all the tics, quirks, habits, and the routines that seem to follow an inexplicable logic. His little sister likes having a different brother because he’s never boring; she dubs his tendency to do handstands in public places “café yoga”. The family tries to “focus on the one thing we can control: our responses to Jackson’s behaviours.”

Jackson is smart (maybe too smart for the class teacher at his new school?) and he likes chess and soccer, but hasn’t made any real friends because the kids think he’s strange. Except April Kennedy, who’s shy and kind, and Miss Marion, with her rainbow hair and funny socks, who teaches dance.

He’s excited to have a play date with Digby Bianco after soccer on Mother’s Day, but it’s not quite what he imagined, and leaves him unsettled. And the next day at school, something happens that makes Jackson feel very uncomfortable, but he’s promised Digby he won’t tell, and one of their family rules is that they don’t break promises.

Suddenly, the police are involved and Julia Curtis, music therapist and busy mother of three, has to handle everything in the absence of her workaholic husband, temporarily overseas. The fact that “Jackson has always been so literal and linear in his thinking” and his inability to quickly articulate exactly what has occurred (“when people talk a lot, my brain gets glued up. And sometimes when it gets really clogged, I start seeing things in black and white”) works against him, seeing him ostracised.

Julia finds she must push past her exhaustion to draw on the well of strength and inventiveness she didn't know she had. As the school mothers jump to conclusions and close ranks, Julia is surprised and heartened by support from unexpected quarters. Her usually-disapproving mother-in-law becomes a fierce supporter of her unusual grandson; and the soccer coach and dance teacher remain stalwart in Jackson’s corner.

Higgins effortlessly evokes this familiar setting, her characters are completely believable, and their dialogue that of those people we encounter on the school run, at the supermarket, in the café. Jackson is an utter delight: who could fail to fall in love with a boy who asks “Is time… heavy or light?” When things start to go pear-shaped, it’s hard not to feel anxious for this remarkable boy. It’s almost a privilege to dip into the lives of these characters, and investment in them is well rewarded with humour and wise words.

If this is a cautionary tale about the dangers to children of unsupervised internet access, then it is equally an admonition to avoid xenophobia of any sort: race, colour, creed or simply a different way of thinking, an alternate perception of the world. The common compulsion to “label” is countered by Julia: “Sometimes labels just put special kids in boxes. Sometimes they just give adults an excuse to stop thinking.”

A totally credible tale, funny, thought-provoking, heart-warming and uplifting, contained within a stunning cover designed by Becky Glibbery: this has to be Fiona Higgins’s best yet!
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Boldwood Books
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Reading Progress

August 6, 2020 – Shelved
August 6, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
August 6, 2020 – Shelved as: wishlist
August 29, 2020 – Started Reading
August 30, 2020 –
August 31, 2020 –
September 1, 2020 – Finished Reading
December 9, 2021 – Started Reading (Audiobook Edition)
December 9, 2021 – Shelved (Audiobook Edition)
December 10, 2021 –
22.0% (Audiobook Edition)
December 11, 2021 –
55.0% (Audiobook Edition)
December 11, 2021 – Finished Reading (Audiobook Edition)

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Sandra(Bee) (new) - added it

Sandra(Bee) Great review!

Lisa Good review Marianne! glad to see the 5 star 🌟 rating.❤️

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