First Impressions of Itch: I actually didn't hear too much about Itch before I accepted it for review. I also never heard of the author before even though he is pretty well known in Britain, but since I'm from the U.S, that doesn't surprise me! I'm always a little nervous when it comes to reading books produced by people with careers that don't start off with being an author. Let's face it, not all of them are very good at writing. However, I really liked the synopsis and the book trailer for Itch. It's been a while since I've read a good middle-grade book and I thought if I liked it, I could hand it over to my little cousin to see if he enjoyed it. It's nice have a test-dummy like that in the family! Who better to give an honest opinion about a book with a boy protagonist than a mischievous 12-year old kid?
First 50 Pages: I'll admit that it took me a little time to really get into the story. For the first 50-80 pages, I wasn't sure where the story was going. It was a little slow and I felt like it lacked a solid plot line. Somewhere around halfway through the book, the plot thickens and the book picks up some speed. Not to say that I wasn't enjoying it, because I was. I enjoyed the characters and especially Itch and Chloe. Maybe I had a harder time relating to them and that was my problem. However, after I finished the book, I handed it over to my cousin who finished it in one sitting and loved it. I'm already being asked to please procure the next book for him, which is odd because this kid doesn't like much of anything. So, that made me happy!
Characters & Plot: Itch starts off with an earthquake in Cornwall, England. Fast forward about six months and we meet Itch (who admits his name is absolutely ridiculous) who almost blows himself up in his bedroom. He was conducting an experiment that didn't go quite right, but luckily, all he loses are his eyebrows. He lives in a home with his younger sister, Chloe, and his mother. His father works away from the home and isn't around very much. There is some obvious tension between father and son that shows up not too far into the story. After the failed experiment that almost caused their home to go up in flames, Itch's mother banishes his experiments and all of Itch's elements to the shed. Itch basically collects all of the elements on the Periodic Table of Elements. He doesn't have all of them yet, but that's his hobby and his passion. Nobody really understands why he is into this stuff and he isn't like all of the other kids who love video games and soccer. Itch is unique and I like that about him.
However, Itch isn't very careful and his experiments tend to get him into trouble. A situation occurs at his school which lands many of his classmates in the hospital and a teacher. As the story progresses, Itch continues to run into danger. I mean, the kid has his own person named Cake that locates elements for him for cash (almost like a drug dealer), but Cake is a pretty cool character. I was a little sad about what happened to him. Overall, I liked Itch. He's a nerdy sort of kid who just loves what he loves. He doesn't entirely think of the consequences of his actions, but he is a good kid.
I also really liked the dynamic between Itch and his sister Chloe, as well as his cousin, Jack (who is a girl). Chloe and Itch have a good relationship and they don't bicker all the time like most siblings do at that age. Chloe actually understands and accepts Itch's quirks and she doesn't try to much to change the type of person he is. The same goes for Jack. All of these characters felt more like best friends than family members.
I liked the action in this story once it picked up. I also enjoyed all of the science in this book and I never felt like it was too over the top. In fact, it was pretty educational without it coming off preachy. I don't even like science very much, but the way the author describes certain things makes it exciting.
Final Thoughts: This book ended with plenty of room for a follow-up novel or two. Even though I had a tough time getting into the story at first, I ended up really enjoying it. It was given a big thumbs-up from my cousin, too. I definitely think that kids in the 10-14 bracket will enjoy it and I don't think that this is just a boys' book. There are plenty of female characters that younger girls will be able to connect with. This was a surprisingly pleasant read and I'm glad I took a chance on it!