Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones Book Review

Wild Boy by Rob Llyod Jones
Illustrations by Owen Davey
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: September 24, 2013

The only life that Wild Boy has ever known is that of the workhouse. That is until he is taken by an unscrupulous and abusive showman who runs of freak show with the circus. Covered in hair from head to toe, Wild Boy (the only name he has ever had) is the perfect new addition. Forced to watch the world, rather than be a part of it, Wild Boy develops observational skills that Sherlock Holmes would be proud of. When another showman is murdered though, it is Wild Boy who is blamed. Barely escaping with his life it is up to Wild Boy and the spunky young acrobat Clarissa, to clear his name and find the real murderer.

Set in Victorian London, this was a heartfelt story of belonging cleverly disguised as a mystery. Wild Boy has never been loved. Abandoned as a baby and raised by abusive people, it is a wonder that he doesn't have more issues than he already does. Wild Boy looks out at the world around him and he sees a world that will never accept him and yet yearns for it. As the story delves deeper into the mystery, Wild Boy stumbles upon a machine that offers the hope of changing him, making him normal. What is the cost though?

Both Wild Boy and Clarissa are interesting, complex characters who offer a very unique perspective in a world that is in itself unique--the circus. Like any good Sherlock Holmes mystery there are twists and turns along the way and the bad guy reveal, which was sadly a bit transparent, but didn't ruin the book.

There were one or two issues I had with historical accuracy such as the characters hanging out in a sewer, even after one gets shot and somehow manages to get better in such conditions. Nope. The introduction of rampant bacteria would kill a person if the wounds weren't clean and bandaged properlly. The other problem is the same issue I had with Harry Potter. There is no way that someone who has been neglected and then raised in such conditions would be in any way functional. As we have seen from children in orphanages in Russia and even those abused by parents and guardians here in the States, Wild Boy would have some serious psychological problems due to his situation. Yes, I understand that this would have ruined the story and so we must suspend our disbelief for a time.

Those two things aside, I thought the book was quite an enjoyable mystery adventure. Due to the ages of the character, but the violent content I am not entirely sure of the intended age of the audience, but I am leaning toward older middle grade, right on the cusp of young adult. I also really love the cover by Owen Davey.