Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes

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Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Z J Cookson
Reviewed by Z J Cookson
Summary: A fast-paced adventure story filled with excitement and humour.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Oxford University Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0192733467

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A boy genius who speaks Mandarin and Latin and a criminal who’s just robbed a bank and stolen a car: it’s an unusual pairing but, it turns out, a perfect team. Car-Jacked leads us through the twists and turns of 12-year old Jack’s adventure when his parents’ car is hi-jacked with Jack still inside.

Ali Sparkes read just two pages of this story to a packed audience at the Winchester Writer’s Festival this month and it was enough to have me hooked, desperate to know what happens next. And that urge to read on (and on and on) didn’t go away once I had the physical book in my hands. A fast-paced adventure story filled with excitement and humour, I couldn’t put the book down until I reached the end. Even when this meant staying up into the early hours!

Car-Jacked has everything a commercial plot-driven story needs – plenty of action, mounting tension and a dramatic climax with an unexpected twist at the end. What makes it stand out from others in this genre, however, is the believable characterisation and the humour.

I chuckled throughout and laughed out loud, perhaps, more than any book I’ve read. The banter between the two main characters consistently made me smile while the musings of Jack about his situation were hilarious. For example, I loved the section at the beginning where Jack debates what might happen when the car thief realises Jack is there. Most of all, though, I loved it when Jack – who has memorised the SAS Crisis Survival Handbook – tries to work out what SAS Guy would tell him to do.

Both main characters, boy genius Jack and hi-jacker Ross, are well-drawn and immediately engage the reader. It’s an unusual friendship so it’s all credit to the author that we never question the bond they quickly form and the lengths they are willing to go to help each other. The minor characters are equally well-developed. It’s impossible not to feel for Jack’s down-trodden dad and for the frustrated Detective Inspector Taunton. Without a doubt, however, the character that steals the show in this book is Jack’s mum, Leonie. She’s overpowering and ambitious with an unmoving determination to protect her son from the evils of fast food, sugar and mobile-phones. She drives the police to distraction. Yet, despite all this, we can’t help liking her when she climbs out of a toilet window to attempt to rescue her son unaided.

I’ve not read any of Ali Sparkes’ other books but I’ll certainly be putting that right in the coming weeks. Car-Jacked isn’t great literature. But it isn’t pretending to be. What it is, is a cracking great read that middle grade readers – and adults like me – will thoroughly enjoy.

If you liked this, you might also enjoy Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz.

Buy Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes at Amazon.com.


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