Reviewed by Kelly Allen
Sam is 11 and very confused. He posts his queries online but his reaction to the answers, like most things, is very literal. Jokes, sarcasm and funny sayings are lost on him.
They live on a remote farm and, one day, Duncan brings back stranger called Larry to help out. Larry shakes things up a bit. He spends time with Sam, offering guidance and confidence to get Sam exploring the wider world. He also becomes a big part of Alice's life, making her realise her feelings and needs are just as important as Sam's or Duncan's.
When Sam starts acting suspiciously, Alice is determined to find out what is going on. In the midst of heartache, change and death, the family learn that the things they want and need are actually possible.
This is a very easy to read book, with great use of characterisation. I felt I knew each character really well and their personalities were strong and well written. I loved Sam and his 'literal' manner, especially the lack of a filter when he speaks and his immense knowledge of most things. I really felt for him when he couldn't cope with situations.
Alice is such a fun part of the book; she is struggling to keep it together, but the humour is well-placed and her situation is strangely comical at times. I really did read on with hope that her life would become everything she had ever hoped it would be. Catherine Simpson writes suffocation and isolation so well, I felt pained for Alice.
Even though there are comedic touches running throughout the book, it doesn't lose its sense of sadness, loss or the reality of life, especially when it feels mundane and you have a character that feels weary.
I giggled and welled up at different times during the book, so prepare yourself for the roller-coaster journey. A funny, real read that will make you see that change is always possible. It just takes time.