Saturday, 1 June 2013

Young Adult

UK Writer
Andy Mulligan
The Boy with Two Heads
David Fickling Books   2013         $26.99pb           386 pages        
 ISBN 978 0 8575 6067 4

Themes: Animal experimentation/ 'Horror' stories/ Metamorphosis/ Schizophrenia/ School stories

Richard Westlake goes to bed one evening looking forward to a big football game next day but when he wakes with a rather sore lump in his throat he very quickly finds himself in an ambulance on the way to hospital. Once there, to everyone’s amazement, the lump grows and grows, and turns into another head sitting on Richard’s shoulders – another head named Rikki. While Richard is a comparatively mild-mannered and gentle boy, Rikki is anything but and is racist, hostile and acidly witty. It would have been so easy for Andy Mulligan to turn this into a real comedy like his first novel Ribblestrop but while there are moments of laugh out loud humour basically the story is much darker than that and there are moments of fear and almost unbearable tension. Some of the passages with the frightening Dr Warren, who holds Rikki/Richard’s future(s) in his hands, don’t fade from the mind for a long time. 
I was worried as I read on how having set up such a scenario it could possibly end but I think most people will agree the ending is totally satisfactory (for everyone – characters and readers)  
When asked in an interview if The Boy With Two Heads was a really bleak book Andy Mulligan replied:
Absolutely not. There’s despair in it, and maybe more pain than in ‘Ribblestrop’ or ‘Trash’. But who’d write a children’s book ending in destruction? Richard and Rikki go on the most extraordinary journey, and they learn so much about friendship and survival. It’s metamorphosis and it’s growth, and I think it’s the most optimistic book I’ve written.

Year 8 up/ Age 12 up 

Please note the image of the jacket may not be the final one. The book is not due for publication for a week or so and this may change!

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