Title: Wild Boy
Author: Rob Lloyd Jones
Series: Wild Boy #1
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery
Summary (from Goodreads)
In the seedy underworld of Victorian London, a boy is born and abandoned. Snatched up by an unscrupulous and abusive showman, Wild Boy, covered in hair from head to toe, becomes a sideshow freak. Isolated from other children and wickedly abused by the cruel master who bought him, Wild Boy becomes an avid observer, developing Sherlock Holmes–like deductive skills. Although he is tormented and insulted, kicked and spat at, his quick mind takes in everything he sees. When a murder occurs at the fair, Wild Boy is hastily accused. Can he use his powers of deduction to save himself? And will the talented and spunky young acrobat Clarissa be with him — or against him? Readers will be swept along by the cinematic pace, immersed in the vivid historical setting, and gripped by suspense as they wait to find out if a better fate could possibly await someone so very different.
I went through a bit of a phase with historical fiction and really enjoyed reading Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper, also set in Victorian times. It’s such an interesting (and horrible) period of history, and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it it Wildboy – albeit from an utterly different angle.
In fact, I would say it’s the best thing about Wild Boy – the unflinching portrayal of some of the dirtier and nastier elements of Victorian life. Wild Boy’s freak show home is such a horrible place that it’s shocking to recall that these shows actually happened, and that people born different were treated so poorly by the rest of the population. Of course it’s all a metaphor for being different and feeling out of place – something the middle grade audience will no doubt relate to – but it’s so brilliantly done.
And Wild Boy as a character is great. It would have been easy to make him too likeable – damaged and bullied by everyone he’s ever met, he could have been the sickly ‘better than everyone’ type by rising above it. Only he doesn’t – he’s a character full of rage about his past, and fear too. Which makes him so much more interesting and relatable.
I’ll admit, I had the plot figured out from about halfway through. There were a few giveaway clues that I spotted, but I’m getting to be pretty good at that, so it’s not necessarily an indication of how good (or not) the plot is – I think it more goes to show exactly how much I read this sort of thing. So the reveal at the end wasn’t really the ‘dun dun duuun’ moment I think it was meant to be, but then again, I’m not twelve, either… Perhaps the intended audience wouldn’t have seen it coming.
All round, I very much enjoyed this. It was a brilliant bit of fun and I’ll be sure to look out for the sequel.