Boy Under Water, by Adam Baron. First of all, let me say that this is one of those sad/happy books, but don’t let that put you off. I think it is one of the most interesting books I have read throughout these reviews. I had visions of the Hugh Grant film About a Boyat times during this.
The book follows Cymbeline Igloo (I’m not sure why writers choose names like that, I think it’s something to do with trying to make the book seem mystical and I never think it works... but that’s just a personal observation). It is life seen through a ten-year-old’s eyes. Cymbeline or Cym (which does work better) is trying to make sense of it all and this book captures that sense of struggling to ‘know the unknown without knowing why it’s important’ perfectly.
Got that? Good. I loved the idea of Cym challenging the school bully to a swimming race when he didn’t know how to swim. It sums up Cym’s frustration and what happens next changes his life completely. Suddenly up pops a mystery, that needs to be solved to understand everything else, but it’s the point of view that makes all the difference. As readers, we struggle along with Cym, because we see it all from his perspective. To stand back would be to permit the reader to wonder why he had never been allowed to go swimming before - but that is from an adult view point and not his. Strangely, it didn’t occur to me to question it – and other things in the story - until the character does... which is why this book is, in my opinion, one of the best of recent years.
I recommend you read it, but let me also remind you it has sadness in it. The humour in it works to sweeten the bitterness. So, for a reader of 9/10+ (boy or girl) who is not too sensitive or going through too much in life, with a good sense of humour and an enquiring mind, this is a must read. It is the very essence of empathy.
We definitely give this a Yellowbird rating of 5 Yellowbirds out of 5.