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Book of the Month Discussions > September 2017: Discussing The Goldfish Boy

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message 1: by Indy (new)

Indy Watson | 3 comments Mod
The pick for September for the book club, Beyond The Surface, was The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson; these are all my thoughts and feels when reading the book.


Mathew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbours from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Mathew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Mathew finds himself at the centre of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbours is a suspect. Mathew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out of the safety of his home?

A little more about the book:

The novel is a middle-grade book, which means that it was quite easy to read, and yet it explored a very important issue; OCD. Mathew barely leaves his room, he doesn’t risk going to school, and he doesn’t dare to touch his parents. He’s too afraid to get ill and for someone to die again, like his brother.

My thoughts and feels:

I did struggle a bit to read this book, although I blame the recent reading slump I’ve been in and not the book, as I’ve attempted to read a variety of books lately, and have not finished any. I liked how you really did see Mathew progress throughout the story. At the beginning he doesn’t dare to leave his room, and by the end, while still not completely better, he has definitely progressed in working to battle his OCD.

How it shapes mental illness:

I always find the way a book makes mental illness appear as a very important factor to how successful it is, as I have read books in the past that have given off the wrong idea when it came to the kids dealing with their issues. And so, with The Goldfish Boy, I liked how it didn’t romanticise the idea of mental illness and the author didn’t downplay it to seem like just a quirk of cleanliness. I also appreciated that they main character received help, and spoke openly to his parents about it, and really worked to overcome his fears.

What did the story focus on?:

While the story was heavily focused on Mathew cleaning, and his obsession with germs, and, of course, the mystery behind Teddy’s disappearance, a nice surprise was its focus on relationships. It focused a lot on how Mathew – because of his OCD – can’t go and hang out with his friends, and he can’t hug his parents, and all these barriers that have been created through his struggles. And how he attempts to mend broken ties and work to fix these relationships with his friends and parents.

*Spoilers ahead*

Opinions on the ending:

In the end, after Teddy is found, Mathew goes back to his therapist where they discuss his situation and talk about what stemmed his fear of germs and getting people sick. He confesses that it was caused by the death of his brother, Callum, and how be believes it to be his fault because he was sick at the time of the miscarriage. After opening up to the therapist about his fears, she assures him that he could not have caused anything to happen to his unborn brother.

Then, Mathew works to overcome his irrational fear of germs by going to the neighbourhood party celebrating Teddy’s return – something that he would never have done at the beginning of the novel.

I think that the ending was great, as he starts to make real progress, but has not fully recovered, as it is a process.


Ultimately, I think The Goldfish Boy was a success. Being aimed at a younger audience, the mystery will suck kids in, while the author also educated them about OCD and how it can affect people. And how common it actually is – according to the author, an average of 20 kids in every school struggle with OCD. It also shows that these struggles with OCD are not forever, you can get better. And I think that is another important thing for kids to know about.

Indy xx

message 2: by Debbie (new)

Debbie (debbieslibrary) | 6 comments I just recenter finished this book, but I really enjoyed it. I can’t speak for the accurate representation of OCD, but I was really interested the read it and Mathew’s thoughts.
This was the first time that I read a book with OCD and I really liked the story overall. I liked the character development Mathew went through.

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