I was initially interested in The Boy In The Box by Cary Fagan because one of the larger plot points the summary revolves around a medicine show and I just loved The Boneshaker by Kate Milford where the medicine show is also a huge part of the plot. For the most part, The Boy In The Box really worked for me, but found myself unsatisfied after reading the end.
Sullivan is a perfectly average kid. He has average hair, average height, average build and is mostly known for being nice, if people notice him at all. His parents run a retirement home out of their house, and so Sullivan’s best friend is an elderly man named Manny. One day Sullivan discovers he has a passion and talent for juggling. This really comes to the forefront when Sullivan and his sister go to Master Melville’s Medicine Show. At the show, Sullivan finds himself trapped in a box, after volunteering for an act. Kidnapped by this new family, Sullivan is forced to incorporate his juggling act into the show, but at least they appreciate his act.
The Boy In The Box by Cary Fagan has rather interesting characterization. Sullivan, the main character, is a decent person. He actually has a good relationship with his parents. He doesn’t act out in class. However, he struggles when it comes to friendship with his peers. When it comes to his sister, Sullivan has a normal antagonistic relationship, where deep down he loves her. The villains, Melville and Mistress were delightfully evil, although Mistress was much more evil. It was also nice to read a children’s book where the parents are not largely absent, but play a big role.
This middle grade book is a very quick read. There is a lot of action which definitely moves the plot along. Plus, the plot does not just stick with Sullivan the whole time. Instead, The Boy In The Box, told in third person, goes from Sullivan at the medicine show to Manny and his sister looking for Sullivan, to a school friend of Sullivan’s who is very concerned about the disappearance and how it’s addressed. The change of story lines really helped to keep the pacing fresh and dynamic.
However, my number one gripe with The Boy And The Box by Cary Fagan is that the book does not feel complete. Instead, the ending feels as though the book has been chopped in half. There is no full resolution, none of the plot threads are resolved. Plus, the book does not feel as though it could standalone. As a reader, this is very annoying because I want at least one thing solved when I finish a book, even if there is a planned sequel.
Based strictly on plot and characterization, I would recommend The Boy In The Box by Cary Fagan to middle grade children looking to read about characters with unique interests. However, if the reader is fickle about endings and needs a full resolution rather than a cliffhanger, then I would say to pass on this book.
Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine.