Internationally acclaimed author, Robert Muchamore’s latest novel tackles big issues with equal parts sensitivity and blunt realism
I’ve got to admit, despite being a self-proclaimed bookworm since my early teens, I have somehow never read any of Robert Muchamore’s previous novels. For someone who loves Young Adult fiction as much as I do, that’s a little bit shocking. His Cherub series alone has sold over 15 million copies in 26 languages over the past 15 years, whilst Muchamore’s books have topped the bestseller list in eight countries (and counting).
When a copy of Arctic Zoo landed in my inbox, I knew this was going to be something I’d not only love – but would end up talking about endlessly with friends and colleagues alike. As I write this review, I am simultaneously trying to put together my thoughts for an interview with the author himself for an upcoming edition of Happiful Magazine, and I’m finding it surprisingly hard not to fall into fangirl territory, gushing about just how much I loved Arctic Zoo.
So what’s it about?
Inspired by Muchamore’s own mental health journey and experiences within a psychiatric hospital, his latest novel follows the journeys of young people who are trying to change the world – no matter how tough it may be.
A straight-A student and drone racing champion from London, Georgia has plans to follow in her sister Sophie’s footsteps to become a doctor – until tragedy strikes.
Living in Ondo, Nigeria, where half the population live on less than a dollar a day, Julius is one of the wealthy few. With his uncle acting as state governor and his mother holding the real power, Julius finds refuge in a derelict zoo with his best friend, Duke, as the outside world becomes more and more hostile.
Should I read it?
A perfectly paced thriller focusing on protest, sexuality, mental health, and flawed leadership, the book is equal parts sensitive as it is brutal. You can feel the genuine pain and grief of bereavement, read first-hand the impact suicide and family tragedy can have on those left behind, the power of group therapy, and gain a glimpse into the horrific realities faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community in different parts of the world.
If you are currently experiencing ill mental health, or are struggling at the moment, Arctic Zoo could be a novel worth shelving until you are in a more secure place. While brilliantly written, in places it has the potential to be triggering for those who have had similar experiences.
Clearly written from a place of experience and compassion, if you are looking to gain a better insight into the experiences and struggles others may experience when faced with big challenges, Arctic Zoo is the book for you.
Both Julius and Georgia make compelling, well-rounded characters to read about. Switching frequently between their differing storylines, at no point does the pace suffer nor feel too rushed despite the short chapters and action-packed plot.
Arctic Zoo has to be one of my favourite books of 2019 so far (along with Juno Dawson’s fantastic Meat Market). If you’re looking for something to read whilst relaxing and enjoying the hot weather, this could be the book for you. I couldn’t put it down.
Available in hardback or on kindle
Publisher Hot Key Books