All The Things That Could Go Wrong by Stewart Foster
|All The Things That Could Go Wrong by Stewart Foster
|Reviewer: Rachael Spencer
|Summary: A brilliant story about mental health and the difficulties of school; it's full of both heart and great storytelling. All The Things That Could Go Wrong takes us into the heads of Alex and Dan, neither of whom are happy, but both for entirely different reasons. I thought this book was meaningful and important whilst still just being a great read, and what more could you really ask for than that?
|Date: June 2017
|Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's UK
Alex has OCD, and as if that wasn't awful enough, he's getting badly bullied at school. Dan's the guy who's bullying him, but he's not really sure why he is apart from the fact Sophie says he should. The only thing Dan does know is that he really misses his brother, Ben. All the Things that Could Go Wrong follows both Alex and Dan's stories as they just try to make it through the days. While Alex fights his OCD and his bullies, Dan fights his loneliness and all the anger that he seems to have inside him now. You might think this is going to be a cut and dried story of the nice boy who's being bullied and the bad boy who's doing the bullying, but it isn't.
Both main characters feel genuine and rounded, that mix of joy, horror, anger and confusion that can only really come with high school and puberty. I didn't like one more than the other, I just found them both fascinating.
Mental health is such an important topic for teenagers to learn about, and I thought Alex's OCD was treated well in this book. Although it defined a huge part of his character, I could also tell that, as a person, he was so much more than his illness. The relationships he had with his Mum and Elliott felt particularly great in this respect, like they want him to feel better, but they also just want him to get on with playing his guitar or swapping footie stickers at lunchtime. I like that in the last page of the book, Alex's OCD is not mentioned at all because everything going on around him is much more important than that aspect of him, and I'd say the coming and going of how much control a mental illness has over you is a pretty accurate representation too. It's so good for kids to see that something like OCD isn't all that a person is.
Dan is a brilliant character. I feel like he's like that line in Shrek about ogres being like onions and having lots of layers; to begin with he's just this guy that bullies the character we already like, but pretty quickly it becomes evident that there's so much more to it than that. His family dynamic is obviously complicated, but in a way that we get why he's being the way he is. I found his change throughout the book to be really quite moving, in that it didn't feel like a change as such, just as though he was finally letting himself be who he already was.
For a lot of people, school sucks. I think that it's not often explored why exactly it sucks. This book is a great take on the way that the random different stereotypes ('geeks', 'bullies', 'weirdos') are inside versus how they're seen in the hierarchical system that is school. I also like that its overall message is really just that you don't have to do things just because cliques at school think you should.
I think Stewart Foster has written a great book here, I couldn't put it down and read it in pretty much one sitting because I just kept wanting to know what was going to happen next. I occasionally wonder if US teenage fiction has a tendency to be a few strides ahead of UK teenage fiction in terms of how it handles difficult subjects in a really readable way. Then a book like All the Things That Could Go Wrong comes along and I realise that's not the case at all, because this book is just that; well written, engaging, occasionally a difficult read (in a good way), but overall just a good story, full of heart, with two great characters at the helm.
I'm really grateful to have been able to read this before it hit the shops.
If, like me, you've not read Bubble Boy yet then go and do that, because I know I'm going to. If you're looking for a book with similar sorts of themes and feelings, head on over to The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson which was so good that it made it into The Bookbag's Top Ten Books for Teens 2015.
You can read more book reviews or buy All The Things That Could Go Wrong by Stewart Foster at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy All The Things That Could Go Wrong by Stewart Foster at Amazon.com.
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