Boy Underwater is a beautiful novel brimming with heart, humour and poignancy. Easily enjoyed by a broad spectrum of ages, the journey of Cymbeline Igloo (yes, that’s really his name) as he attempts to uncover the mystery of why his mother never took him swimming proves itself a deeply moving portrait of a fractured family.
Adam Baron’s style is rife with brilliant touches. Cym’s first-person narration is written as though he is older than he is, yet remains plausibly innocent, allowing for the character’s hopes and fears to resonate with the reader. The humour has a lovely Rugrats quality to it, where the curiosity and naivety of its children protagonists is juxtaposed against a pessimistic and not fully understood adult world. The mystery of Cym’s family remains suspenseful and compelling to the very end, but the book’s greatest strength by far is its relatability.
Boy Underwater isn’t afraid to be dark and doesn’t shy away from mature themes of mental health, loss and family strife. These themes and the characters they affect are imbued with enough humanity that I doubt they’ll be too intense for younger readers, though I’m sure they will be noted and appreciated by older readers nonetheless. Baron deftly walks the line between young and old, having crafted a work of fiction that is as accessible as it is engaging and moving.