Boom! by Mark Haddon

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David Fickling Books, 2009.
(Ages 9 +) Recommended.When Jimbo's friend Charlie is kidnapped by aliens, Jimbo enlists the help of his older sister Becky to plan a daring rescue. The two of them steal a motor bike belonging to Becky's Neanderthal boyfriend and head for the aliens' headquarters on the Isle of Skye in an effort to rescue Charlie and foil a dastardly alien plot to invade planet earth.
Haddon has a wonderfully laconic style full of understated humorous action and plenty of breezy one liners. Narrated by reluctant hero Jimbo, Boom! is filled with flamboyant characters. Dad has been made redundant and is recreating himself as Jamie Oliver. Charlie's mum is someone you definitely wouldn't want to meet on a dark night. Sixteen year old Becky, a moody, depressive Goth, can't stand her younger brother until she realises he is about to be murdered by aliens, while Charlie is full of grand schemes and wild plans. However, it is down to Jimbo's devious cunning and Becky's accuracy with a large cudgel that save both Charlie and planet earth. Although Boom! may not have the depth of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time it is a light-hearted, rollicking read that shows just how versatile and original Haddon is.
In the foreword Haddon explains how Boom! was originally published in the early 90s as Gridzbi Sbudvetch! although he has almost entirely rewritten it for the modern technological age, and thankfully given it a new title too. I am always a bit suspicious of authors who rewrite earlier works once they become famous, but this has a freshness and originality that really works. Haddon is definitely making his mark. If any of your readers enjoy Morris Gleitzman try them with Boom!. It should prove to be a big hit.
Claire Larson