The Boy in the Box by Cary Fagan stars Sullivan Mintz, an 11-year old boy who doesn’t seem to make an impression on anyone. We learn early on that Sullivan was encouraged to take up juggling by Manny, a resident in his family’s retirement home. Manny is one of the few people who actually takes an interest in Sullivan. Norval, Sullivan’s friend at school, and Samuel Patinsky, the school bully, seem to be the only others who really see Sullivan – Norval to be a friend, Samuel to make his life life miserable. Sullivan is just going through life helping his family when Master Melville’s Medicine Show comes to town. At that point, Sullivan finds something to interest him and he even decides to show his juggling skills to Master Melville one night. Sadly, this leads to him becoming the “Boy in the Box” as he’s kidnapped to become one of the show’s performers.
We learn bits and pieces of Sullivan’s life, but the story ends up being more about how everyone reacts. Norval and Samuel end up coming together to remember Sullivan and keep his legacy alive. His family and Manny remember him, with his little sister trying to get people to realize that Sullivan might have been kidnapped, not dead. The child performers in Master Melville’s show are interesting in themselves, but we know that the Melvilles are not nice people – kidnappers and con artists who use children taken from their homes to perform. They even give those children new names and forbid use of their old ones.
I read this because it sounded like an interesting premise at the time. I found that the plot moved a little too slowly at times and was left at the end feeling that there’s more to tell of this story. The story definitely ended on a somewhat depressing note, which is definitely not my favorite type of ending. Even with that, though, I didn’t feel that this was the best possible ending. I wanted to know more about Sullivan’s plight, but at the same time I wasn’t really left hungering for the next book to know how things turn out or progress. Overall, I liked the book, but just can’t give it a very high recommendation. The book was kind of slow to get started and just when things seemed to be moving somewhere, it ended. I considered sharing this with my kid, but with the main theme revolving around kidnapped children, I just didn’t think it was the best fit for my child. Other parents may feel differently, but you may want to skim through the book first to get your own opinion.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy with no expectations on the part of the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced in any way by the publisher.