Boom! by Mark Haddon

Boom! caught my eye the other day (book design for the win!) when I was in the local library with my kids and I added to the riddiculous pile of books we always lug home whenever we visit.

And a few nights ago I decided to start reading – and promptly read it straight through. It turned out to be a a great little story – action, adventure, intrigue and humor all in less than 200 pages.

The inside flap offers this teaser which was enough to hook me:

It was a stupid, inane, suicidal idea. Which makes it quite hard to explain why I decided to help. I guess it boils down to this. Charlie was my best friend. I missed him. And I couldn’t think of anything better to do. Really stupid reasons which were never going to impress the police, teh headmistress or my parents.

Looking back, I reckon this was the moment my whole life started to go pear-shapped.

What was the crazy idea? To spy on their teachers. This leads to a startling revelation which leads to further insane acts and as is the way in these stories trouble with a capital T.

The book was originally published in 1994 under the tile Gridzbi Spudvetch! As you might imagine the title didn’t exactly help sales and the book soon was out of print.

Its popularity with school children, however, and I am sure the success of Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, convinced him to re-work and re-publish the story.

Boom! strikes as a great romp – a fun and lighthearted sci-fi adventure. Booklist capture the sentiment well:

It’s exactly the kind of caper you imagine when you’re a kid, filled with adult conspiracies, secret codes, and wisecrack-filled escapades. Sure, it gets a little tiring during its zany spaceship finale, but it’s hard to find much fault in a climax featuring a giant, disco-obsessed alien spider named Britney.

If you are looking for a tight plot and adult complexity you will be disappointed I think.  The switch between the introducing of the characters, and the setting, and the sci-fi adventure part is abrupt for example. This is one of those books where you just have to suspend belief and enjoy the ride – which I found easy to do.

The characters are likable and well done (even if a little thin given the shortness of the book) and I didn’t find the very British dialog hard to understand but some young readers might.

There is even a certain – admittedly cheezy – lesson involved: friendships and family are what are important when push comes to shove.

All in all a great little story.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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