Adam Baron tackled big themes of loss, grief and mental illness in his impressive and much-liked debut, Boy Underwater. In this, his third novel for young readers, he brings back some of the characters in another stand-alone story that is as big on the emotions as it is on drama and action. Cym (Cymbeline) is facing turmoil at home: his mother’s new boyfriend Stephan is moving in with his two daughters. Cym’s father has also moved back in, temporarily. It’s a lot for anyone to handle and comes hot on the heels of an upsetting break-in, in which the burglars turned over Cym’s bedroom. Meanwhile, in Brighton, sisters Jessica and Milly are also facing change. Their father is sick and with just one salary coming in, their mum may be forced to sell their house. Though the children are total strangers, fate – in the shape of an extremely fluffy teddy – brings them together in an exciting story of stolen treasure no less.
If the plot demands a fair bit of suspension of disbelief, the children themselves are totally credible and Baron’s wry, good-humoured depiction of blended family life is wonderfully accurate. He loves to highlight those daily, often unnoticed miscommunications between adult and child, which are funny, poignant and revealing. Whatever is going on, everyone, child and adult alike, understands what’s really important, and that is what the story comes down to in the end. Along the way, in a very fast-moving plot, the author constructs some extraordinary action scenes, the climax a chase along the banks of the Thames, in which every young protagonist gets to show off their particular talent, even the youngest, unicorn-obsessive Mabel. The happy ending is thoroughly satisfying a