The Goldfish Boy is one of those novels that I think everyone should read. Known as the ‘secret illness,’ debut author Lisa Thompson brings the reality of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to the public in a way that can be understood by all. She demystifies through main character Matthew and I can guarantee you will take Matthew to heart as much as I did.
Paperback: 400 pages
Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Publisher: Scholastic; 1 edition (5 Jan. 2017)
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. Until the day he is the last person to see his next door neighbour’s toddler, Teddy, before he goes missing. Matthew must turn detective and unravel the mystery of Teddy’s disappearance – with the help of a brilliant cast of supporting characters.
Page-turning, heartbreaking, 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 laugh and cry.
I loved Matthew’s dry humour. All too often we forget about the person underneath the anxiety, relating and responding to the behaviour and this is what happens to Matthew with his neighbours and to some extent his mum and dad. His growing friendship with Melody through their joint venture of working out where missing Teddy has gone bought some normality for him. As well as children being cruel, they can also be accepting. Her unusual ‘hobby’ gave me a deeper insight to her character. We’re given the chance to be empathetic towards Jake too in ‘Jake’s Story.’
Looking through the upstairs windows, Matthew gets to see his neighbours ‘masks’ slip as well as keeping up with what’s happening. His observations build a picture of their lives (our dog Taz does exactly the same as Frankie!) as well as how they fit in with his own family and the community.
Intrigue surrounds what happened five years ago – snippets are shared so although I had an idea, I didn’t know exactly. I couldn’t link an action from the beginning to the cause (it was throwing me off the trail) and thought this was cleverly executed.
As to the disappearance of Teddy, I followed Matthew’s clues, trying to work out the mystery. There are red herrings which I took at face value. The teamwork was fabulous 🙂
Through Matthew the reader experiences the physical affects of anxiety and how logical those thoughts are that lead to the repetitive compulsions and behaviours. The author doesn’t hold back either in the way these behaviours impact those around him. I know it’s stereotypical to say this … but dad’s (on the whole) have a more practical side and often don’t have the same emotional understanding as mum’s do. Everything is done with the best intentions and there does come a point where others feel exasperated as they just don’t understand, despite wanting to. It was heartbreaking.
The Goldfish Boy is a poignant story. You’ll need tissues (no matter what age you are!). I cried at the ending as the cracks open wide – it’s real and raw and I could feel all that emotion.
Recommended for children (and adults) who may be going through this crippling anxiety condition themselves, and for anyone wanting to gain a deeper understanding.
It’s a keeper
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