Wise-cracking author Bosch fizzes in this first book of a new series featuring the not-always-grounded Clay. Fans will remember Clay’s brother Max-Ernest, an amateur magician who disappeared two years ago, from the Secret Series. Bosch is undisputed heir to the Lemony Snicket throne of childhoods imbued with misery, and there’s plenty of injustice meted out to Clay. When a quote from his journal appears on the school wall, along with his signature, Clay protests his innocence in vain. The quote reads, MAGIC SUCKS. And magic certainly causes trouble, when Clay’s parents send him to a camp for ‘struggling youth’, set on a volcanic island. The rickety plane to the camp is called ‘The Tempest’, and there are many other echoes of Shakespeare’s play, including a girl called Leira (that’s Ariel backwards). The text also references many TV shows from the 1970s. These are ancient history to Bosch’s readers, so he’s kept busy with footnotes about ‘Fantasy Island’, ‘Gilligan’s Island’, ‘The Love Boat’ and more – although ‘Scooby Doo’ is arguably the real inspiration.
Clay’s room-mates are a card-sharp, a joyrider and a boy who picketed school, but there are more sinister characters who conjure another robinsonade, Lord of the Flies. At the heart of the island is a forbidden, ancient library – and it’s this trove (which includes Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island and The Tempest) that holds the key to a smoking mystery. A book to delight bookish children, entertain those who need all of the footnotes, and amuse mature fans of popular culture.