LONGLIST REVIEW: The Goldfish Boy

Matthew Corbin lives in a quiet little cul-de-sac which no one would ever suspect would become the centre of a serious crime investigation. However, behind the doors of each home on the street, there are people who harbour secrets which slowly begin to unravel and it appears Matthew holds the key to deciphering them. Matthew observes the comings and goings of his neighbours each day from his bedroom window. He is able to do this because he hasn’t left his house in over a week and has confined himself to his room for the foreseeable future. 

Matthew has obsessive compulsive disorder. It started with hand washing then developed into cleaning and recently, Matthew has taken to wearing disposable gloves and imprisoning himself in his room. Matthew’s fear of germs and sickness keep him prisoner there because to him dirt means germs, germs mean illness and illness means death. Matthew’s only real connection to the outside world is his notebook about the daily routines of his neighbours.

When the grandson of his next door neighbour disappears, it seems that Matthew is the last person to have see him alive. His notebook will prove essential to working out how to find the little boy and working out who took him and why. But poor Matthew is confined to his room. Will he be brave enough to face his fears and solve the mystery? Matthew is also hiding secrets of his own and the real test will be his ability to open up and share the events that triggered his illness.

‘Goldfish Boy’ is a brilliantly written debut novel by author, Lisa Thompson. Not only is it a window into the world of those suffering with obsessive compulsive disorder, but also a page turning mystery. Readers are hooked until the end of the story. Even when the mystery has been solved, we are left rooting for Matthew to reveal his own secrets and receive the help he needs for his condition. It’s a book that enables the reader to understand and empathise with individuals suffering from OCD, giving real insight into the compulsions and obsessions that make disorders like this so debilitating. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a distressing or dreary read; on the contrary, it is light-hearted with a strong vein of hope running throughout.

Readers could create a timeline of events whist reading the ‘Goldfish Boy’ using Matthew’s notebook observations. The time line could then be used to identify potential suspects, as Matthew did, using observations to identify clues and characters that might have had the motive and opportunity to take the little boy from next door. Class members could act as characters from the book and fellow classmates could interview them regarding their motivations for committing the crime. Both of these ideas will help readers to develop critical thinking and reasoning skills which are important reading skills to develop if they are to continue to enjoy books from the mystery genre. Scholastic have produced this great resource for you to download, with ideas for for teaching Goldfish Boy in the classroom.

Goldfish Boy by  Lisa Thompson

Scholastic    ISBN: 9781407170992