A heartwarming, page-turner of a mystery where the main character suffers from OCD and has to overcome his fears.
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 Thompson 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.
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 Thompson 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 tabbed so many pages of this book that this review would end up super long, but here are a few of my favourite quotes from the book:
“My arm tingled where her hand had touched it. Not a good tingle – an infected tingle. Washing was imperative…”
“In my head I was making a mental note of everything I now needed to clean after she’d gone.”
“I held my hands in front of me…seeing disease crawling all over them.”
“It didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel clean…So I started again, and again, and again.”
“If you look carefully enough you can see beautiful things in almost anything.”
“Don’t ever wait for a storm to pass. You’ve got to go out there and dance in the rain.”
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.”