Jake wakes on Monday morning to find his mum is missing. He is anxious to find her quickly, not only because he misses her, but also because it’s only ten days to Christmas – and with no mum will there be any presents. Getting no help from his grandma, dad or older sister Rose, Jake starts to investigate. He writes a list of all the possible explanations for mum’s disappearance, from going on holiday to being in prison. He tries to rope in his best friend Lukas to help in his quest, but his friend seems elusive and preoccupied. Jake is worried and really missing Mum.
Jake narrates the story, and we follow his search as it happens, together with flashbacks where Jake remembers details of family life including his mother’s recurring illness, filling in the back story for the reader. Gradually Jake faces the truth and the memories he has blocked out – he already knows what has happened to mum. Coming to terms with this is a turning point for him.
The story includes a cast of interesting characters, from Jake’s super tidy dad to his exhausted grandma coping with two grandchildren and a daughter in hospital on top of her demanding job as a nurse. His friend Lukas’s warm and friendly Polish family is a nice addition, and through them we gain an interesting insight into Polish Christmas traditions. But it is Jake who is centre stage and through him we experience his struggles with facing the truth and the love he feels for his mum – giving her a Christmas angel decoration to keep guard over her in hospital is a lovely touch.
This is a sensitively story written from a child’s perspective about living with a parent with mental health issues, it includes themes of facing reality, coping with change and the love that binds families and friends together despite the problems they may have. The liberal use of bold text may feel a little ‘shouty’ to some readers, but this fits the idea of a child’s voice and notebook very well.
A successful debut novel likely to appeal to readers who enjoyed books such as Jaqueline Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum or Little Bits of Sky by S.E. Durrant.