“Spudvetch!”

A Review of “Boom!” by Mark Haddon

A science fiction story about two boys who discover two of their teachers are aliens and proceed to save the world from becoming obliterated. Rollicking.

How does it score on the books with teeth checklist?

  • Awesome characters that walk and talk and act like real people. They sure do. Even the aliens that are pretending to be real people. We would never have caught on if two boys hadn’t been spying on the teacher’s lounge . . .
  • These awesome characters include some empowered females who do not need to be saved by men, and though they may have weak moments (don’t we all?), they use their awesome empowered female force of will to overcome them. The protagonists, Jim and Charlie are both male, and both fantastic. By the way, I have no problem with fantastic male characters, especially when they save the world from obliteration and stand up for their friends at the risk of being liquefied. However, the story is also peopled with strong females. Jim’s mom is the breadwinner of the family, a force to be reckoned with and pretty handy with a brief case, and Jim’s sister . . . well, you could make the argument that Becky is really the one who saves the world.
  • Awesome plots which are original and interesting. While many students probably look at their teachers and wonder if their teachers have tails, I feel as though not too many authors have fleshed out what would have happen if the teachers actually did have tails, and were alien spies, and happened to be found by a couple of students . . .
  • Not sickly sweet, generally avoids having a moral. Obliteration from alien planets is not sickly sweet, so we’re safe there. Morals could include “eavesdropping sometimes pays off,” which is a bit dubious. There is a nice wholesome message about sticking up for your friends and siblings even at the risk of being sliced by a blue laser, however, the story is good enough that we will forgive Mark Haddon for having a wholesome message buried deep down in his writing.
  • Talks intelligently about interesting questions. It does. For example, if offered the opportunity, would you voluntarily relocate to an alien planet purely as a matter of interest? Also, for example, what would you do if your teacher was an alien?
  • Has punctuation. Mark Haddon has mastered basic grammar. Also, his writing is neat and trim. Every word matters.

 Teaching “Boom!”

 This is the ideal read aloud book. When I worked for an after school program that closely resembled “Lord of the Flies,” I read it to a group of fourth graders. And they were quiet. And they requested that I read more. It was the magic solution to chaos and cannibalism. That is only a little bit of hyperbole.

Warning to Teachers: Does provide explicit instructions on how to bug a teacher’s lounge using a walkie-talkie.

 Books with Teeth Rating: 5/5

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