The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Matthew hasn’t left the house for quite some time. Instead he sits in his bedroom (very clean and disinfected) or the study (within the acceptable limits of cleanliness, if he’s careful about what he touches) and makes notes about his neighbours’ movements and habits. This comes in handy when Teddy, the grandchild of his next-door neighbour, goes missing – Matthew may be the last person who saw him.

The Goldfish Boy is both a compassionate story about a boy struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder, and a proper whodunnit mystery. Matthew’s matter-of-fact voice and 12-year-old perspective comes through strong and clear, and I must say that I took his side against adults whose behaviour was baffling and insensitive on many occasions. In order to solve the mystery, Matthew must find a way to accept the friendship of eager Melody and repair his broken friendship with bully Jake. He must attend his first appointment with a child psychologist, challenge himself to leave the house, and realise when his judgements have been hasty.

This closed circle mystery, which takes place entirely on one suburban street, is full of clues, suspects, red herrings and real evidence. Teddy’s disappearance is eventually solved (happily) and the true villains of the piece come as a surprise. The other mystery – the development of Matthew’s OCD and why he blames himself for his baby brother’s death – is sensitively explored in an optimistic and realistic way. Matthew’s parents are flawed, but loving, and his path to recovery is bumpy but paved with hope. For ages 9+.

Leanne Hall is a children’s and YA specialist at Readings Kid and the grants officer for the Readings Foundation. She also writes books for children and young adults.

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The Goldfish Boy

The Goldfish Boy

Lisa Thompson

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