OK, this one is easily the best children’s fiction title I’ve read this year. It has all the following strengths:
1. It’s funny. Cf. the first chapter, entitled “I Am Not Exactly in the Lake District.” What makes that funny is that Liam, the thirteen year old protagonist and narrator of this adventure story, is actually “on this rocket . . . about two hundred thousand miles above the surface of the Earth.” Cosmic is about how Liam got into space and what happened when he did. Short version: he lied about his age.
2. It’s British. Not too British. Not so thick with slang that one has to have a dictionary, but still the Britishisms are there and delightfully so. Liam and his dad carry a “mobile,” not a cell. Things are either “rubbish” or “cosmic.” Liam eats crisps. You get the idea.
3. It’s got a good solid, unbelievable, but satisfying premise: child pretends to be adult, and hijinks ensue. Freaky Friday material. But there’s no magic involved. Liam just looks old. He has facial hair at thirteen. He’s very tall. He keeps getting mistaken for an adult, so he does what most thirteen year old boys would like to do: he goes along with the mistaken identity. Liam’s lack of a driver’s license only slows him down, but doesn’t stop his adventures.
4. It’s well-written and well-paced. Stuff happens. Liam gets into trouble, out of trouble, back into trouble, out, then into MAJOR trouble. Being stuck in space with four other kids who don’t know much more than Liam about how to fix an off-course rocket is Trouble.
5. Liam’s voice is splendid. Examples:
“That night Dad wanted us all to play Monopoly in the new kitchen. Has anyone ever played Monopoly to the end? Don’t most people just sort of slip into a sort of boredom coma after a few goes and wake up six months later with a handful of warm hotels?”
“Being doomed is Not Good. But being weightless is Outstanding. Every time I lean forward I do a perfect somersault. When I stretch my arms in the air I levitate. Back on Earth my only skills are being above average in math and height. Up here I’ve got so many skills I’m practically a Power Ranger.”
“In World of Warcraft you can have weapon skills, gathering skills, or trade skills. You can have mining skills, too, but they’re a bit rubbish and you have to buy a pickax.”
“I didn’t really want to think about things going wrong so I just concentrated on the drinks menu. I couldn’t believe when the others all asked for coffees and teas. There were so many drinks to choose from. I spotted something called the Cosmic Quencher, which I had to order because ‘cosmic’ is my favorite word.”
See what I mean. Liam is Cosmic!
Weaknesses of the book:
1. Totally unbelievable. How many thirteen year old boys can masquerade as the dad of one of their classmates?
2. Sometimes silly. Liam is not the brightest bulb in the ummmm, light fixture.
3. Disrespectful to adults. The adults in the story are also not too bright.
4. Encouraging irresponsible behavior. Don’t try this at home, kids!
I can’t think of any more weaknesses, and I actually think the weaknesses are strengths, too. Cosmic is a cosmic book for cosmic kids. Check it out.