From a financial perspective, it makes perfect sense that this book, originally published in 1992 under the title Gridzbi Spudvetch!, is being given a second life nearly twenty years later. Its author, Mark Haddon, has since achieved literary renown as the author of 2003's book club favorite The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the lesser known but equally enjoyable A Spot of Bother (Vintage). It's been nearly four year's since the latter's publication, and with no new adult novel on the horizon (for the time being), it makes sense to haul a title out of the archives before people forget about Haddon. Similar action was taken with Yann Martel after the roaring success of his Life of Pi, when The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios - an older collection of short stories - was repackaged for the public. Adult fans of Haddon's `previous' novels are bound to feel intrigued. Toss in the fact that Boom! was actually written for the young adult market, which is enjoying strong sales in a comparatively bleak market for books, and everything seems perfect. For both Haddon and the publisher, of course.
The problem with repackaging these older titles is that they inevitably seem hopelessly amateur compared with the author's current work. In Martel's case, Facts was the work of an experimental author struggling to find a voice; essentially throwing ideas out on paper to see if they worked. Unfortunately, more often than not they didn't. For Haddon, well, he had ten extra years of writing expertise by the time Curious Incident hit bookshelves, and boy does it show. Which is odd because in the forward Haddon claims to have extensively edited the old manuscript to fix all the wonky writing and plot holes (as well as to update the technology to incorporate cell phones and iPods). I say this claim is odd because the sound that would best describe Boom! is rather a deafening Clunk! Clunk goes the dialogue, stilted and unnatural (and oddly enough featuring dated references to Snakes on a Plane, among other pop culture dinosaurs, for something that was allegedly worked over to be up to the minute). Clunk goes the plot, which awkwardly lurches forward and still features an unseemly amount of plot holes. Clunk goes Haddon's sense of humor, so sharp and biting in his two adult novels. Indeed, if Haddon intended to snatch some of the audience of the bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, then Jeff Kinney has absolutely nothing to fear, because this book lacks all of the wit and whimsy that makes those so enjoyable.
Is Boom! an awful read? No. It's harmless. But it's also imminently forgettable; had the publisher left it out of print I doubt anyone would have missed it very much. Its major crime is that it won't appeal to either Haddon's adult audience or the young adult audience it aims for. Both sets are better served waiting for something new.