A young boy who has a fiery curiousity and a love for the periodic table. A mad scientist bent on personal gain, no matter what the consequences to the planet. A new susbstance that pops up from deep beneath the Earth's crust, just in time to save the world—or destroy it. All these elements (pardon the pun) are what make Simon Mayo's debut novel, Itch a compelling, action-packed read.
Set in Cornwall, England, young boy Itch (full name Itchingham Lofte) is not your average high school student. For one, he doesn't feel the need to be super popular at school (and he isn't). But the main reason Itch is unusual is because he's an element hunter. Fascinated by science, Itch collects elements from the periodic table in their purest form.
This can sometimes make home life interesting, as Itch's mother and his younger sister Chloe well know. Itch, Chloe, and their mother live in their small house alone, while his father works abroad for an oil company. They also live close to their aunt, uncle, and cousins. One of his cousins, Jack (short for Jacqueline), is also his best friend.
The whole family is used to weird sounds, smells, and small fires coming from Itch's room, but when he accidentally sets off an explosion from a misapplication of phosphorus, Itch's mother bans all his elements from the house. This results in Itch carrying around two of his more dangerous elements in his backpack to school one day—which sets of a chain of events that soon spiral off into a fast-paced thriller of an adventure for Itch, Jack, Chloe, and their school's suspicious new teacher, Dr. Flowerdew.
The characters in the book are relatable and memorable. Itch and Jack, although smart and fun, are often bullied by classmates who don't understand their dinisterest in soccer (or in Itch's case, surfing). Anyone who is fascinated with science, particularly biocehmistry, will love the way the elements are intertwined in the plot. The book also has a strong environmental message, making the reader think about the consequences even the smallest decisions they make impact the planet.
Chock-full of science, a strong young hero, and a plot that's a roller coaster of danger, Itch is a definite must-read for geeks everywhere.
(Bonus Note: There's a seriously cool app available to download with the book, which, when you point it at the cover... well, we're not going to spoil it. You'll just have to see for yourselves!)
What's your favorite element on the periodic table?