Clare Wilkins, Librarian, King’s House School
Twelve-year-old Matthew Corbin suffers from crippling OCD. Trapped in a small world of his own making he rarely ventures out from the pristine confines of his own bedroom. Left to while away the hours making scrupulous notes on the comings and goings of his neighbours, Matthew’s highly observant nature soon becomes the key to solving a chilling mystery. When Teddy and Casey move in temporarily with their Grandfather, Mr Charles, Matthew is soon taking notes on the lively youngster and his sinister sister.
It is Casey who coins the moniker The Goldfish Boy after she catches Matthew observing them through the glass of the bedroom window and Matthew takes an instant dislike to her. When Teddy suddenly disappears from the garden one sunny afternoon, Matthew wonders whether Casey is involved. Realising that she or one of his neighbours must be the culprit, Matthew begins to re-examine his notes and slowly starts to emerge from his cocoon. Aided by his quirky and persistent neighbour Melody, Matthew is soon establishing means and motives for the colourful, sometimes secretive cast of his quiet suburban cul-de-sac.
Attempting to solve the mystery and return Teddy to his distraught mother inadvertently forces Matthew to confront some of his own demons and reflect on how traumatised his own parents are by his behaviour. Wrongly blaming himself for his baby brother’s death, Matthew belatedly realises that his life has spiralled out of control, keeping him out of school and isolated from family and friends. When Matthew and Melody (with a little help from the police and their neighbour Jake) finally solve the mystery of Teddy’s whereabouts, Matthew vows at the same time to begin making small, shaky steps on his own road to recovery.
The Goldfish Boy is a wonderful, quirky read but it does take a while for the story to gain momentum. Only once Teddy disappeared did I feel truly engaged with the characters and their story. Matthew is a difficult protagonist to like but it’s a genuinely intriguing mystery as well as a parable about overcoming your fears and Matthew, like the story, wins you over in the end.