Boy Underwater

HarperCollins. Mar. 2022. 256p. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780008499624.
Gr 4-7–Cymbeline, who is nine, is ridiculed and embarrassed frequently because of his name; he explains in this first-person narrative how his parents named him after a Shakespearean play. The English school setting provides readers with a feel for the main character’s surroundings, as well as his stressors. What begins as a humorous coming-of-age story, complete with the mishaps of a young boy trying to fit in, quickly develops into a mystery laced with emotion, fear, and intrigue. Deep, intuitive thoughts are described by the narrator, such as when he wonders, “Is that what growing up is? Disappearing and reappearing as someone else?” These types of questions plague the main character throughout, as he learns to deal with the fact that his mother admitted herself to a mental health facility. Readers will be completely enthralled with the twists and turns, as well as the unforeseen ending. There are frank discussions of male and female anatomy, as well as depictions of serious mental illness.
VERDICT A strong choice for middle grade mystery shelves.

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