GENRE: Middle Grade
A story about finding friendship when you’re lonely and hope when all you feel is fear.
Twelve-year-old Matthew is trapped in his bedroom by crippling OCD, spending most of his time staring out of his window as the inhabitants of Chestnut Close go about their business.
That is, until the day he is the last person to see his next door neighbour’s toddler, Teddy, before he goes missing.
Now Matthew must turn detective and unravel the mystery of Teddy’s disappearance – with a little help from a surprising and brilliant cast of supporting characters.
Full of heart and a genuine and honest confrontation of some of the ways in which life can be hard to handle, this is a story about the courage it takes to face your fears and learn to live with them. Page-turning and heart-breaking, but ultimately life-affirming, this story is perfect for fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and Wonder.
It is a book that will make you think about everything there is to discover, just waiting beyond your front door.
This absolutely WONDERFUL book is jam-packed with beautiful things from Lisa Thompson’s writing style, to the characters and the story; I can’t find fault with it! It was touching, thought provoking and kept me hooked the whole way through. The balance between the mystery and mental health aspects was spot on, which makes it perfect for fans of, for example, Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine, but also for fans of Jacqueline Wilson and Ross Welford. It’s also an excellent choice for young adults and adults with an interest in mental health books. Basically, I can honestly say that I will be recommending this book to absolutely everyone I can – even when I worked in a bookshop that included fellow booksellers. As soon as I finished this book I just wanted to shove it into everyone’s hands and make them read it!
At its heart, it is a mystery story and one that keeps you hooked right the way through because you have no idea who the culprit is; you are seeing the world through Matthew’s eyes and so only know as much as he has observed/discovered and this is something that will keep you guessing right to the end! It’s one of those plots where, because it is a young boy who has gone missing, you have no idea quite how dark the book will end up being which was something that I found really enjoyable about it. As it is set within the restrictions of this one close, you get to know all of the characters and it is a story that is so easy to put yourself into, yet still full of twists and turns. I fell in love with so many of the characters – especially Melody and Old Nina! They all had their own little quirks and stories that really added to the main story.
In addition to being a well-written mystery, there is the element of Matthew’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – he is essentially trapped in his bedroom with a debilitating fear of germs and dirt and will go to extreme lengths to stay clean. This is the aspect of the story that particularly caught my attention; OCD is unfortunately a very misunderstood illness and I haven’t read many books that portray it particularly accurately. I was surprised to learn after reading The Goldfish Boy that Lisa ISN’T writing from personal experience because she does such an incredible job of showing OCD taking hold of a young person, the thought processes and obsessions behind it (it’s not always completely illogical!) and the extremes of the compulsions. I also loved that there wasn’t a magical cure by the end of the book, but there was a sense of positivity for the future – this mystery has helped Matthew to begin to take the first steps to facing his fears of germs and dirt and I loved seeing him managing to forget about his troubles every so often. However, and this is another reason why I loved this book, this OCD storyline doesn’t detract from the main story being about the mystery and rather it adds another dimension to it.
“Don’t ever wait for a storm to pass. You’ve got to go out there and dance in the rain.”
This book was actually quite difficult for me to read at times; I suffer from the same form of OCD as Matthew. This is testament to how brilliantly Lisa has depicted the illness in that it literally felt like she’d taken thoughts straight out of my head and put them on paper! People do notice the frequent hand washing and use of hand gel, but it’s much harder to admit to scalding your hands just as part of a ritual to get them clean or washing them in bleach. You don’t even have to have touched anything to need to do this – just a thought can trigger the compulsions. I’m actually quite jealous of Matthew being able to wear gloves; it’s something that is often suggested to me to deal with touching things, but I can still feel where the germs and dirt are and there’s the potential that they could just get through the glove anyway. And then there’s the whole taking them off because that will involve some skin contact and so what’s the point?!
I did finish this book with a little cry – like Matthew I want nothing more than to be able to go downstairs and just hug my mum without freaking out and to be able to leave the safety of my bedroom. I hope that we both manage to properly “re-join the living”one day.
“I think I’m going to be fine.”