I was immediately sold into this book by its very enticing cover. Just looking at it made me think underwater mystery adventure. But what Adam Baron delivered was not that at all, it was so much more. Instead, Boy Underwater is a humorous yet heartbreaking tale of family, friends and secrets, and it was definitely not what I was expecting at all.
Meet Cym, a convincing central character with a narrative voice as distinctive as his name. A young, carefree yet slightly naive boy who has never been swimming. So when Cym decides to boast to the school bully that he’s a fantastic swimmer, little does Cym know that this will reveal a family secret that will turn his life and family completely upside down.
From here Baron bravely dives deep into issues surrounding mental health, bereavement, and bullying but comes from it with a fast-paced, entertaining and unintrusive angle. Grief lurks at the heart of this novel and I was emotionally gripped but a little taken aback by the unexpected ending. But through the voice and attitude of Cym, Baron masterfully creates an ending that is both honest, heartwarming and unpredictably realistic, stressing that even the youngest of children can deal and cope with the biggest of issues. It’s so important to engage with children about these topics and this book does a brilliant job of opening doors to that. Not to mention the interior charcoal illustrations by Benji Davies are a really great touch at keeping the story engaging and light for children. Despite Cym being nine, I personally would recommend this book for the older age of the middle grade readers due to its difficult topics.
Whilst there were things that I didn’t love about the book, all round it was a well written story, full of wisdom and humour. An ambitious narrative for Baron’s debut for younger readers but I’m intrigued to see what else Adam Baron has up his sleeve.