Boom! by Mark Haddon

Our book for May is Mark Haddon’s Boom! At the start, you might think this is going to be just another family drama story. Jimbo’s father has lost his job and is sunk deep in depression, his older sister’s dating a thug Jimbo calls Craterface, his best friend Charlie is grounded for deciding to borrow his mother’s car and teach himself to drive, and their teachers are out to get them.

In fact, two of their teachers really are out to get them, at least after Charlie and Jimbo do some electronic eavesdropping and hear the teachers speaking an alien language. Not merely a foreign language – a not-from-this-earth alien one. Their subsequent investigations get them into big trouble, revealing a conspiracy of alien abductions. When Charlie disappears, Jimbo knows he’s the only one who can save him. Along the way, Jimbo finds his sister to be an unexpected friend and, short of actual armed police, the best ally he could have in his quest to rescue Charlie. The two steal her boyfriend’s motorbike (not that Becky has a licence) and set off for Scotland and the secret alien transport beam. Charlie’s only 70,000 light years away, somewhere in the vicinity of the Large Magellanic Cloud. Unfortunately, Jimbo’s rescue attempt ends up annoying the aliens so much they decide to destroy the earth, meaning that Jimbo, Charlie, and Becky, armed only with a big stick and a few oddments accidentally borrowed from Craterface along with his motorbike, have to save the world – and they only have a few minutes to do so before it all goes Boom.

This science fiction comedy adventure for older kids and younger teens is a fast-paced read with a very British sense of humour.