The Fastest Boy In The World by Elizabeth Laird

Challenge 13 ~ “A book set in a different country.”


★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Laird’s latest novel does not disappoint, earning it its place on this year’s Carnegie shortlist. An easy read that resonates with both children and adults, the language, structure, pace and characters are beautifully crafted with a simple plot to showcase them. The novel may be a short one, but Laird manages to cram in suspense, anticipation, excitement and progression without rushing it at all.

From the start I will admit the book does not hold the world’s most complicated, unusual or breath-taking plot, but at the same time it is not simply a repeat or twist on your typical children’s story. It is often the case that children’s books skimp on description, deep character exploration or are set in familiar situations to avoid the requirement for this, as this helps to create a shorter and more engaging read for the younger audience. Laird, however, jumps into the unfamiliar Ethiopian countryside with an abundance of beautiful description, and in doing so manages to hook the reader in a different way, losing them in their own imagination.

From this point the plot seems to unfold naturally, assuming a moderate pace that balances well with the continuous changes in scenery (which are all well-accompanied by Laird’s luscious summaries). The characters, whilst not explored on a thoroughly deep level, seem to fit with the novel, although the rapid changes in location mean the number of characters mentioned is typically higher than usual, and hence it is easy to become a little confused. The understanding of these background characters and their relative relationships, however, is not crucial to the understanding, or even enjoyment, of the novel.

The Fastest Boy In The World is a book whose position on the Carnegie shortlist I fully support. It may lack the je-ne-sais-quoi to elevate to the full five stars, but is a book I would not shiver at to read again. As a short, enjoyable and accessible book for all readerships, I would wholly recommend it to all readers (and non-readers!)

Recommended for fans of:

  • Jake’s Tower by Elizabeth Laird
  • The Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman
  • Jasmine Skies by Sita Brahmachari

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