Author: Rob Lloyd Jones
Finished on: 1 February 2017
Where did I get this book: A kindle purchase for my daughter last year
Monthly Motif Challenge: Undercover thriller
My daughter is now 11, and luckily for me (and her) she is just as much of a bookworm as I am. I stand by the bold claim that a love of reading is the best gift you can give your child (well, I would wouldn’t I) and I feel very proud of her bookworm-dom.
She has pretty eclectic tastes, but her favourite stories are adventures and mysteries (again, I can’t imagine where she gets that from) so Wild Boy was a great choice. A rollicking adventure story that gripped right from the first page, and on through a roller coaster of a plot. We were both keen to give this sequel a go.
But recently she has begun to get fed up with something she sees as a pattern in adventure stories for children and young adults. “They’re all about stroppy teenage boys.” The Harry Potter series is her favourite of all time, and she has recently whipped through the Maze Runner books. It does seem that if you don’t read explicitly ‘girly’ books, then you’re often stuck with stroppy teenage boys.
Wild Boy is a superb character, a former circus ‘freak’ covered from head to toe in thick hair, and with extraordinary Holmes-like powers of observation. But his friend and co-detective, Clarissa, is equally marvellous. An anarchic and argumentative acrobat with no respect for anyone. She is just as important in both this and the first story. But it’s only Wild Boy who is worthy of a mention in the title.
What is it with the dominance of male characters in fiction writing aimed at both genders of children and young adults? Surely it doesn’t have to be the case that if we’re not at boarding school or riding ponies, then the boys must have centre stage?
This is not a criticism of Rob Lloyd Jones at all. It is a much wider phenomenon, and Wild Boy does have a brilliantly strong female character at its heart. The friendship between these two deeply damaged, deeply flawed, but wholly lovable characters is the central point around which the rest of the story turns. We see two people unused to being able to trust anyone, learning how to trust each other. And learning about the responsibilities that come with having someone around who really does care about you.
Compared to the challenges of finding, and keeping, a real friendship, Clarissa and Wild Boy have a relatively easy time of it solving the mystery behind a series of terrifying poisonings. These poisonings have no identifiable source, and incapacitate or even kill their victims after slowly and creepily turning their veins black.
The story is surprisingly dark for a children’s book, but deliciously so, with a cast of characters ranging from the demon Malphas, a half-crow, half-man intent on destruction, right up to Queen Victoria herself.
A worthy sequel to the brilliant Wild Boy. But there are at least two votes in this house for seeing the equally brilliant Clarissa given equal billing next time.