Radio Boy by Christian O'Connell

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Radio Boy by Christian O'Connell

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Coming on like a John Hughes film plot for the under-twelves, this tween drama is never fully realistic, but just so exuberant even I was won over. For the intended reader, it will be a charm.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: January 2017
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780008183325

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Meet Spike. There're two things he loves in life: Katherine Hamilton, the unattainable girl at school everyone does their best to warn him off, and radio. He is the youngest person volunteering for his local hospital station – he's read all the books and knows that's the best classroom to learn his trade in. But he's been sacked – the only listener recently was someone who'd died and not turned her radio off. Never mind, though, the horrid headmaster has always promised the school its own radio – but prime presenter will not be Spike, but the headmaster's own son, who is not only Katherine's squeeze but the biggest bully around. Is there any way for Spike to possibly get his lips to the mike and his talents on to the airwaves?

The thing about that is, surely nobody of Spike's age is that keen on radio. There's a brief mention here – apologetically hidden in plain sight, for people to pass over it – of Youtube stars, having their own channel and wiffling on at their heart's content and receiving millions of audience members. Spike's hero DJ will probably have a large audience, but Spike won't, by concentrating on such antiquated media. He uses similar technology, what's more – putting his output online to be streamed, even if his best mate provides the records on – shock, horror – vinyl. Spike seems to never have heard any of the platters that matter (and they're most unlikely choices, when all is said and done), but between them they and the token strong girl could just about stand as a potential 'zoo radio' team.

Still, this book came to my attention due to the star name on the front, that of a fairly noted British radio DJ. I can see some autobiographical sense here, some wish-fulfilment for the reader and the writer both, of a young lad trying to fulfil his dreams and gain an audience. But Christian O'Connell is in no way just writing about what he knows (and leaving wish fulfilment fantasies about Youtube stardom to Youtube stars) – he's actually providing for quite a rollicking read. There's a bit of a lesson, but that's secondary to the action of the plot, which I could also see with a more teenaged flavour, as like something out of John Hughes' college movies. The teen with unrequited love, and the drama that happens when his private interests become something bigger – it's a routine enough story, but certainly comes across fresh here.

I did always have some quibbles with some aspects of the plotting – the narrative is inspired by some adult characters, a teacher for one, and the mother (a wonderful cameo from someone utterly intent on worrying about danger), but too often these people have to just disappear for fear they'd ruin the plot and bring some realism. That's a shame, but not a fault, in that it won't be noticeable to the young. They may notice instances of telling, not showing – the other kids are introduced through exposition and not event, including the one supposed to be hilarious (he's not). The under-twelves (and really this is such a breeze, and read in such a short time, despite its page length, that it won't be sought after by the older child) will really like this. Yes, considering the unlikeliness of so much here, I do have to take my hat off, and credit this book for providing an ever-interesting plot, which is well-sustained by some great, teasing chapter breaks. Those and reasonably-justified changes in style keep the pages turning.

So even if good adults vanish, and even if the whole intent of our hero is unlikely, and even if many more people really should have suspected things much more quickly, I really enjoyed my time with Spike. It's not as funny as the blurb attests, but tweens will lap this up – they'll even plug it on their podcasting…

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Midnight Gang by David Walliams and Tony Ross is the season's best celebrity-authored book about a lad finding the truth of life with the help of some unusual pastimes.

Buy Radio Boy by Christian O'Connell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Radio Boy by Christian O'Connell at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Radio Boy by Christian O'Connell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Radio Boy by Christian O'Connell at Amazon.com.


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