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Boy Meets Hamster by Birdie Milano

Instead of starting this review with a summary of the plot and characters, this reviewer has to start with a thank you to the author and publishers. This is TOTALLY the book that 12 year old me needed to have in his life. It super duper isn’t their fault that it came out 26 years too late now I’m properly old.

So, now that’s out of the way, let’s begin. This summery, lovely book is about Dylan who is fourteen and is being dragged along to a £9.50 short break holiday in a caravan park in Cornwall. The bonus is he’s been allowed to bring his best friend Kayla along, which is important to him as his family doesn’t know that he likes boys. His parents are busy dancing and being soooo embarrassing and often leave him to baby sit his four year old brother Jude.

He wouldn’t normally mind this, but his attention is focussed on Jayden-Lee, the caravan park’s resident bad boy. Dylan is smitten at first sight and is determined to be noticed. How much will Kayla help him in his quest for love before she feels neglected? Will Jayden-Lee feel the same if Dylan can work up the courage to be seen? Surely he can’t be that naughty underneath it all? More importantly, just why does the Park Mascot, Nibbles the hamster, seem to be in his way being so annoying and meddling in his attempts at every turn?

This book is sweet and funny, with Dylan’s ability to get into ever increasingly catastrophic situations providing a lot of laughs and thrills. Not only that, it’s heartfelt as it has real issues faced by kids between its covers.

With an exciting, romantic ending, this will stay with you much longer than any £9.50 mini break in a dingy rubbish caravan park!

A PARENTS PERSPECTIVE

We don’t like to put an age range on reading, but despite its gently romantic theme, it is not explicit at all, and is suitable for all older children. Most reviewers say 12+, but depending on the maturity of the child I would argue there’s nothing here that slightly younger ages than this couldn’t read.

As well as dealing with themes of unrequited crushes, and understanding the beginnings of romantic feelings, this book touches on themes of complex family dynamics, coming out to family members, and bullying.

This book has both a positive, not overwrought attitude towards LGBT issues, and a lovely representation of disability. Dylan’s little brother Jude has cerebral palsy and the book provides an honest look at what it must be like for a family with a member in a wheelchair without ever being preachy. His best friend Kayla is plus sized and has a very body positive attitude and one of the romances touched upon is racially diverse.

We would totally recommend this book to any reader, gay or straight, but if you think that your child might be LGBT+ but not ready to talk to you about it, mixing this book into their reading is a great idea. It will give them the message that who they are is ok, teach them they are worth something lovely and ‘normal’ happening to them and show them they’re not alone. It may also give them the tools and the courage to talk to you about how they feel and who they are – without ruining a whole fairground event (don’t ask, Dylan already feels bad enough about it!).

This is a funny, heartwarming tale, with madcap set pieces which verge on slapstick thanks to Dylan’s complete inability to de-escalate any situation.