Bannie McPartlin, The Fearless Five

Piccadilly Press, 2019, ISBN 978-1-84812-803-3

It's 1990, Ireland is doing well in the World Cup, and Jeremy and his friends have just broken up for the summer holidays. All should be great, but Johnny J's mother has cancer and her treatment isn't working. Jeremy hates to see what his closest friend is going through, and can't bear to contemplate how either of them would feel if, as looks likely, Johnny J's horrible Auntie Alison takes him to England. If they could get the money together, they could pay for his mother to go to the Sates, where they're sure she would find a cure. The friends come up with and discard one idea after another, until only Jeremy's idea remains. They are going to have to stage a heist. An unlikely band of robbers, twelve and thirteen years old, and most of them neither super-fit nor super-bold, they lay their plans. But things don't work out well, and Johnny J's mother is getting worse. There's no choice: now they are going to have to steal from a security lorry. The press portrays them as the Fearless Five, but fearless is certainly not how they feel, especially once they go on the run.

Bannie McPartlin has created an attractive cast of characters. Jeremy is timid and frightened of change. Brian, always known as Sumo because of his huge size, likes nothing better than spam sandwiches. Walker is tiny and plagued with allergies. Johnny J is very cool and everyone likes him. He's getting more and more friendly with Charlie, and she's gradually infiltrating the group, much to Jeremy's annoyance. He doesn't want girls around, though as time goes on, he's grateful for her quick-wittedness.

Despite the cancer theme (Johnny's mother doesn't get better), there is plenty of broad humour in The Fearless Five, which will make it appealing to lots of readers, as will the fast-moving plot. Many children will be pleased by the hint at the end that this won't be the last time they meet the friends. The book is over 350 pages long though, so some will be daunted.