Book Review: The Boy with One Name

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Jones is a Badlander who desperately dreams of being an ordinary boy, with an ordinary family. Ruby is an ordinary girl who dreams of being anything but. The pair collide in the most unlikely of circumstances and find that they might just be the answer to each other’s problems.

The Boy with One Name introduces us to a world very close to our own, yet which no one knows anything about except for the Badlanders. This is a world full of monsters, trolls and ogres. The Badlander’s job is to protect us from these monsters by hunting and killing them.

Alongside the themes of magic and monsters, there is also a strong exploration of a friendship. Ruby and Jones both want what the other has, but they also have a lot in common: they were both brought up by someone other than their parents. This allows them to empathise with each other’s ambition, and illustrates the importance of family and friendship.

Entering a fictional world, such as the Badlander’s, is not alienating, as each unfamiliar aspect is set within a clear narrative. We enter the world alongside Ruby, while Jones explains each monster and magical item along the way. And for those words that he misses (or if we just need a recap) Wallis has included a glossary. Here each new word and term is explained to us along with its origin - for many of which of course it's Anglo-Saxon.

The story introduces us to all kinds of magic and monsters but it definitely feels like there is more of the Badlander world for us to see. This book could easily be part of a series full of more Badlander adventures. I’d definitely like to see more of Ruby fighting monsters as the first girl-Badlander! Overall, The Boy with One Name is an entertaining read and a great introduction to a brand new fictional world. The main characters are both 12-years-old and this is a superb piece for younger readers.

Rupert Wallis lectured on the creative writing programme at Falmouth University and writes for children (and adults!) under the name J.R. Wallis. His debut YA novel ‘The Dark Inside’ (2014) was shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award, the Leeds Book Award and the Andersen prize in Italy, and is now being made into a film.

by Hannah Cartwright