I love a story with a great villain. Some of them, like Patrick Ness’ Mayor Prentice and Chris Morphew’s Noah Shackleton, you hate so much because they’re incredibly evil men (and you really want to punch them in the face!). Other villains are quite likeable because, no matter how hard they try, things really don’t work out for them. Lester Smythe, in Glenn Wood’s fantastic debut children’s book, The Brain Sucker, is one such villain.
Lester Smythe has a black heart. He s invented a dangerous brain-sucking machine that removes the goodness from its victims, and he intends to use it to rid the world of all human kindness. But Lester didn t count on thirteen-year-old Callum McCullock and his two best friends, Sophie and Jinx. The trio vow to destroy the brain sucker. And nothing will stop them.
The Brain Sucker is one of the coolest junior fiction (middle grade) books I’ve read in ages! The idea is original, the story is action-packed, the heroes are unlike any you’ve met before and the villain is sinister. From the very first page, when the villain slinks onto the page, I knew I was going to love the story, and I greedily turned the pages wanting to know how it would end.
Lester Smythe is a sinister villain, but there’s also something awkward about him. He reminded me of a cross between Gru (from Despicable Me) and Professor Doofenshmirtz (from Phineas and Ferb) and I almost expected him to announce that his brain sucking machine was the ‘Brain-suckinator.’ I think Craig Phillips has perfectly captured Lester in his front cover illustration (I especially like the way that Lester’s eyes catch the light). Lester’s plan is to rid the world of goodness because anyone acting good makes him physically sick, due to a horrible experience when he was younger. The machine that will help him with his task is the Brain Sucker, which sucks the goodness right out of people’s heads. It’s up to the heroes of the story to save the day (and the world from becoming a miserable place).
The heroes of the story, Callum, Sophie and Jinx are unlike any heroes I’ve met before. They all have flaws but they manage to overcome these to help save the day. Callum is paralysed from the waist down so he’s wheelchair bound, but he’s really determined and doesn’t let his disability get in his way. He’s also got one of the coolest wheelchairs around! Sophie is Callum’s best friend and she’s incredibly talented and intelligent. She has a mechanical mind, so she can make improvements to her toys or invent new gadgets to help her friend. Her only problem is that she gets claustrophobic. Jinx is the funniest character in the book, because he has really bad luck. He’s always in the wrong place at the wrong time, whether it’s a gas main exploding under his school desk or bird dive-bombing him. You always know something bad is going to happen when he’s around, especially when his thumb starts to dance.
If you’re after a fun story, full of adventure, mystery, magic, exciting gadgets, and great characters, The Brain Sucker is the book for you. I’d recommend it for 9+ and it would be a great read-aloud for Year 5-8.
4 out of 5 stars