Title of the book
The Boy in the Bubble
Anne Tagonist, Adam Simmonds and Mel.
Description of the main characters
Anne Tagonist: she is the 'I person' in the story. The story is told through her eyes. She is a girl of sixteen years old and doesn't really like the way she looks. She hasn't got breasts, her hair colour is wrong, she never has boyfriends, and so on, and so on…
Adam Simmonds: he is the boy who suffers from SCID. He lives in a plastic tent to be protected from bacteria and diseases. He falls in love with Anne the first time he sees her and lives, literally, a very protected life. He has never been hugged by his mother and his father is almost never around.
Mel: she is Anne's best friend but also the opposite of her. She has nice hair, nice breasts, knows every boy around and is very much interested in cars. Anne talks about her a lot but they don't do so many things together in the book.
humorous drama, being in love
Number of pages
Summary by chapter
Chapter 1: Anne gets to meet Adam for the first time. He moves in as a new neighbour in the house next to Anne. She is a little bit shocked of his disappearance and thinks he is some kind of mad boy, she compares him to a chimpanzee.
Chapter 2: at school Anne's form teacher, Miss Weinstock, organised another Special Project. These projects always have something to do with Community Involvement. This time Miss Weinstock came up with the idea to visit Adam and, once a week, have some kind of schoolday at his home. The plastic tent where Adam lives in, uses most of the space available in the living room. Although he is different in several ways, she starts liking him…
Chapter 3: Adam had invited Anne to drop by after school. And she does. But Mrs. Simmonds (Adam's mother) only gives her a bag of stuff her classmates had left behind that morning and slams the door before she gets the chance to come in. She said that Adam needed some rest, because he has SCID and has been to excited that morning. Anne looks up the word SCID in a medical dictionary. She finds out that babies born with SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency) have no natural resistance to bacteria, or any form of virus, so that the mildest infection can prove fatal. Anne more or less decides to do a project on SCID.
Chapter 4: the next week, when Anne comes around with the class, she comes a little bit earlier than the rest, so that she can stick a letter on the plastic wall of the tent. In her letter she explains to Adam why she didn't visit him and she asks him if he is willing to help in her project. Later that night he calls her with his own phone. He says he would like to help her answering her questions about how it is to live 'inside', if Anne tells to him about what it is like to live outside, in the normal world.
Chapter 5: Adam and Anne start working on the project. They begin by making a map of the tent Adam lives in. Anne draws the living area, the transport bubble, the supply and sleep area and the little where all kinds of waste go out. Adam explains where all the rooms in his tent are for and talks about memories he has. It becomes very clear to Anne that many things you don't think of in the first instance can make trouble. Like handling a knife right, that is making sure it doesn't damage the tent. Such thing are spoken over by the couple and Anne makes notations.
Chapter 6: Adam and Anne are seeing each other less than usually. Mel says that Adam is in love with her and she is in love with Adam, but Anne denies it. Anne's mother advises Anne to tell Adam what she is really thinking. Chapter 7: Adam asks Anne to be his girlfriend and she agrees. For his birthday the next week she wants to give him a special present. Since he is always talking about thinks he has never gone to, she tries to arrange that Adam can go to the cinema. She speaks to the manager of the cinema and he suggests that Adam can come when a preview is held for the press. In that way, if Adam wouldn't mind there will be taking pictures of him, there will be some publicity for the cinema and no further trouble with money or other things like that.
Chapter 8: The plan is successful. Mrs. Simmonds is against it in first instance, but Adam's father, who isn't very much around because of his work, agrees. Suddenly, the plan seems to be off because Mr. Simmonds can't come: he's 'too busy' working (as Adam predicted). Mrs. Simmonds rings Anne and says - with a little triumph in her voice - she can't make it without a second adult. Anne is disappointed and tells the story to her mum. But she wants to go and together they go to the cinema. At the end suddenly a horde of journalists appear. Mrs. Simmonds is furious with anger to Anne because she forgot to tell about the other half of the deal.
Chapter 9: At first, Adam (but especially Mrs. Simmonds) is disappointed in Anne and he doesn't want to see her and look at the ride back home. The next day, pictures of Adam are in several news papers and Anne feels very guilty. But when Adam rings her on the phone, he is far away from sad. He enjoys the attention and thinks he is very interesting. Even his mother is coming round and all ends different and better than expected after the visit to the cinema.
Chapter 10: Because of al the attention in the papers, Adam feels more and more famous and forgets a little about Anne. But when he realises, he asks her to tell about certain experiences, like walking barefoot in wet grass. But he also asks her to tell about things she hasn't done already. So she makes sure for him to do all those things and afterwards she tells him her experiences (like sitting on a horse in gallop). A younger brother of Anne's father has found her and her mother after a long search and after he had recognised Anne's mum in the newspaper. He tells tem about Mr. Tagonist. The father had left when Anne was eight, but the couple never knew what happened to him. The uncle is able to tell them that he came under a train while being in Edinburgh.
Chapter 11: Adam says it will be better when Anne is dating other people, in other words he is kind of breaking up with her. He still loves her, but the fact that he is locked up doesn't want to say that she has to be too. Anne disagrees but is hurt. That is why she rings up Mel who, the next day, has settled a date for her with Tony, an ex-boyfriend of Mel. Anne and Tony get along very well after a while and they do many things together. At the end they keep staying more in the apartment. But in their conversations, at a certain point Tony always talks about Mel and Anne always talks about Adam. One evening in the apartment Anne decides to make an end to their relationship because she thinks both their hearts go out to someone else. When she comes home earlier, she sees the painting of Adam her mother is working on (Anne's mum is an artist and Adam's mum had asked her to make a painting of her son). She can't help thinking about the times she has had with Adam, but still decides she doesn't want to see nor talk to him.
Chapter 12: Anne has gathered all the courage needed and finally she rings up Adam. But when she calls, no answer is given. She knows that Adam knows it can only be her and now suddenly doesn't want to pick up the phone after he had rung her 'hundreds' of times. So Anne goes to his house and finds out that Adam is in the hospital. She has a long and good talk with his mum (surprisingly) and she tells Anne that some Japanese expert wants to examine Adam and do some tests on him. After a few days her extension phone rings. She thinks it's Adam, but it happens to be Mel. She is crying and sobbing and tells Anne she is probably pregnant by Rob, her boyfriend. Mel has found out Rob is faking the whole relationship and doesn't want to know anything about a pregnancy.
Chapter 13: The Japanese expert, named Mr. Kimoto, is trying to find a cure. For that he needs matching blood-marrow. The best match can be found by close relatives. But the blood-marrow of Adam's parents don't even come close. So, as many uncles and aunts as possible will be tested. Of course also Anne wants to do something to help Adam, so she leaves a blood sample at the hospital too. After that, she decides to visit Adam. She has to go through a lot of trouble and asking, but finally she manages to be able and allowed seeing him ten minutes. She apologises to Adam for her behaviour and Adam apologises to her too. In their conversation Adam says he is in a certain way of speaking afraid that they will find a cure. He says he doesn't know for sure if he can cope with the freedom he will then be having.
Chapter 14: Mel isn't pregnant and has left Rob. She is now sort of dating Tony again. They had worked together on some cars Tony has in his own, personal garage. For Adam a boy is found with useful bone-marrow. The operation succeeds and Adam and Anne can't wait to touch each other. It is now only a matter of time and doing a lot of test on Adam.
Chapter 15: Adam suddenly gets a secondary complication: he has problems keeping down food, developed a fever, later on he also developed chronic diarrhoea and finally dehydration. Adam is allowed to leave his plastic tent for the first time in his life, although it isn't completely safe yet. He hugs his mother for the first time and also gets to touch Anne for the first time since they have met. But then suddenly the bad news arrives: Adam is going to die: not in a few months or weeks, but in a few days. Then, the weekend before Christmas, Adam dies.
Chapter 16: A funeral is hold for Adam. Anne hasn't cried yet. At first, because she wanted to be strong for Adam. After his death, because she can't. A week after the funeral, she finally goes to see Mrs. Simmonds. The mother looks bad and hasn't got any sleep since a long time. The house looks cold and empty, quiet because you don't hear the air pump anymore. The house looks neglected, especially the kitchen. Anne suggests to Mrs. Simmonds her to go lie down for half an hour. Mrs. Simmonds finally gets into a deep sleep and Anne cleans the house for her.
Chapter 17 (the final chapter): Mrs. Simmonds slowly recovered and they are spending much time together in the house Adam once lived. Anne is glad that they both suffer the same pain: the loss of Adam. One day she receives a letter from one of the two doctors that helped Adam: a girl has leukaemia and needs blood-marrow. They had a record of Anne's in the hospital and the marrow is matching. So she co-operates and now the girl is doing fine. Anne's mum won an art prize for one of the pencil sketches she did before painting a portrait of Adam. And Anne says she's won a prize too: she has got breasts. One day, Anne receives a letter from Adam via Mrs. Simmonds. She forgot to give to her but found it back as she cleaned up some stuff. Adam writes she has got to let go of him an get on with real life. He says she is the best thing that ever happened to him. As she looks up from the letter, she sees the gas-filled balloon bobbing around on the ceiling. It is a red balloon, with a smiling face on it, she got from Adam the day the surgery was going to be performed. It has given a lot of support to her and, in a certain way, symbols (the thought of) Adam. She takes the balloon right up to the top of the steep hill in the centre and releases the string. I would like to give a quotation of the last sentence, which I think is the best and most emotional one in the whole book:
Finally, I forced my fingers to release the string and then, as I watched the balloon soaring up into a perfectly clear blue sky, getting tinier every second, for the first time since Adam died, I cried my eyes out.
My personal opinion
This book was really excellent!! It was just great. It is the best book I have ever read in English. I even haven't read a better book in Dutch. In the beginning I thought it was very predictable: sometimes it is, but most of the times the story just works out a little different than I expected. When Strachan wrote about the death of Adam and the funeral, it suddenly remembered me of the death of my grandma. She also died, not so long ago and - if I'm honest - I still haven't got over it. My favourite sentence in the whole book is the last one, when releasing the red balloon stands for letting go of someone and the memories. I hope someday I will be able to do that, but not now. Although, the book helped me to achieve that a little more.
I want to talk about the title. I think it isn't so well-chosen. The boy isn't really living in a bubble, but more in a plastic tent. Figurally speaking the bubble is the protected life in which he lives. In that way the title is better chosen, but still doesn't really tell about what the story is about. Perhaps a better title is the plastic love tent. It is kind of a weird title, but at the same time it leaves more open about what the story is about. It isn't situated in the middle. The love tent symbolises the life the two young people live. Because Anne gets involved too and feels so much sorry to Adam that she kind of gets to live a life with no other people than him and his family.
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