The Goldfish Boy

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Lisa Thompson, The Goldfish Boy,  Scholastic Australia,  5 Jan 2017,  400pp., $15.99 (pbk),  ISBN 9781407170992

Matthew Corbin is stuck in his house, too fearful of stepping outside in case germs start crawling onto him, spreading disease. Even inside he has to keep washing his hands and cleaning his room in repetitive actions that are frustrating his parents. While he can’t help the compulsions, the up-side of looking out at the world through his bedroom window is that he knows the routines of his neighbours. When Mr Charles’s grandson goes missing, Matthew is the last to see him. He provides some observations to the police but it’s the sleuthing relationship he develops with new friend Melody Bird and old friend Jake Bishop that finally solves the mystery of Teddy’s disappearance. The little boy is returned unharmed, and Matthew’s courage (and a decent psychologist) helps him start to understand and manage his anxiety.

This book explores the impact of trauma on children. Matthew’s obsessive, compulsive disorder had its beginnings in his misunderstanding of how his unborn brother died. His guilt over an event he had no control over manifested into behaviours that unfortunately weren’t recognised by the adults around him. If there’s one thing about the text that rang untrue, it’s the reaction of his parents and the local GP to Matthew’s fairly obvious compulsions. It takes quite a bit of the book before his behaviour is considered more serious than just the need to pull himself together. In the end, though, proper treatment begins, and the reader senses that Matthew will eventually be able to return to a normal life. A crime story with a human twist.

Reviewed by Pam Harvey

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