Meet Milo. His ambition is to survive the coming school year. This sounds simple but he is not just facing a new school year but also a new school, a new neighbourhood, and a new home – his fifth. Worst of all, his new life is one without his mum. And he is only 13.
The reader follows Milo through the year as he tries to make sense of life after his mother’s death. His family is suffering and nobody will talk about what has happened. The novel’s cover suggests a comedy, but though there is plenty of humour to appeal to a young reader, there is also an attempt to convey the devastation that occurs when a parent – and in particular, the mother – dies.
Designed to appeal to the ‘Wimpy Kid’ audience and also fans of Gleitzman, Silberberg’s style is conversational and colloquial. Milo, a very ordinary boy who delights in making lists and is prone to accidents, speaks in his own voice – very much that of a 13-year-old – and the sketches that pepper the text emphasise this. Characterisation is not complex with few subtleties to confuse its audience who will feel comfortable with the stereotypes. They will also feel comfortable with the handling of the subject which offsets emotion with laughs within a very recognisable setting. While adults may find the conclusion simplistic, young readers will find it satisfyingly hopeful.
This is a novel that can be recommended for what it is – a lively read that combines humour with a certain emotional content.