GENRE: Young readers, Children’s, Contemporary
My Rating: 3/5
I picked up this book since the cover had me thinking what it had in store for me. I was jumping to conclusions about some adventure or mystery behind the pages. But what Adam Baron brings forth in the pages was not what I had expected, it was so much more. Boy Underwater is a humorous yet heart wrenching tale of family, friends and secrets which will leave you with moist eyes and at times with a foolish grin when you remember your school days.
The main character is Cymbeline Igloo, a vivacious and lively 9 year old boy. He is known as Cym among his friends and classmates. He is carefree yet slightly naive boy who has never been swimming. So when Cym decides to blow his own trumpet and brag about his swimming skills to the school bully that he’s a fantastic swimmer, little does he know that this will expose a family secret that will turn his life and family completely upside down.
Cym does lot of research on how to swim and the different styles, but he is no way prepared for the waters. The swimming challenge ends in an accident which reveals a dark secret hidden inside his mother and her mental health. His mothers suffers a breakdown and is admitted to a hospital and he is sent to stay with his aunt. But things are far from being normal. His life and that of his immediate family is one that is full of drama, secrets and situations which at times I felt were beyond the comprehension of the readers this book is meant for.
The book deals with lots of varying issues such as bullying, family secrets, mental health, grief and bereavement. One would expect it to be a dry, difficult read, but the themes are interwoven in the novel in a way that the subject matter is never comes across as a blow in your face. Yet at times I have felt that the author sidetracks from being a children’s books and seems unsure if he was writing a book for children, or writing a book for adults. The incidences involving Cym’s aunt and uncle’s problems were more apt for adult books than one for those in young readers. Despite Cym being nine, I personally felt that this book i more suitable for older age of the middle grade readers due to its difficult topics.
The mystery of his mother’s mental illness and the reason behind the illness to me seemed unsuitable for the delicate minds of young readers. Yes, some kids might have faced similar situations but the treatment here in the book was more inclined towards older readers.
Though there is much more awareness around mental health issues and is an extremely important issue to talk about openly , especially with children so that they don’t find it scary or uncomfortable. At times I did feel uncomfortable reading certain parts which I felt as a young child would be a little harsh or emotionally upsetting. It made me think aloud if the book would actually help a child going through something similar or would the child too behave the same way as Cym?
These are just small issues, however, and overall I felt the book was a really good read. An easy read, the accompanying charcoal illustrations support the story line and add to the essence of the plot.