Book review: Mad Boy — by Nick Arvin

(Europa Editions)
Nick Arvin’s “Mad Boy” is such an unexpected experience, readers will be left awestruck and grinning from the delightful twists and turns of events that make this book such a rollicking read. When young Henry Phipps finds himself alone, his mother dead, his father in debtor’s prison, his brother Franklin off to fight against the redcoats, he is faced with a gruesome task — to carry out his mother’s dying (dead?) wishes. Quick-witted, ambitious, conniving, resourceful, full of trickery, Henry is no ordinary lad. His adventures carry him across the lands stretching between Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, Blandensburg, all the way to Baltimore, Maryland, and all while the War of 1812 is happening around him. He finds his brother, alive, and he finds an assortment of vivacious compatriots — looters, defectors and scoundrels while freed* slaves (*freed to fight with the British), attempt to make their way to real freedom. When a scheme to recover a treasure that could save them all goes horribly awry, young Henry Phipps is at the ready with yet another creative solution. Not only does this novel offer an insider’s view of the oft-neglected War of 1812, it also offers a smart, highly enjoyable, fast-paced, wholly original book reading experience. Pick it up, you will not be disappointed.
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of the Vermont Book Shop
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