Oliver loves his parents, but they worry about everything.
They are even afraid of the tiny rash he found on his elbow. In desperation, Oliver comes up with a "spectacularly brilliant top-secret plan." He will seek out daring situations—doing things that would certainly shock his parents if they ever found out. In each adventure (his exploits are never too serious), he takes a memento and puts it into what he calls his Box of Shocks. But one thing throws Oliver for a loop. While he is away for the summer, his parents move into the house next door and his Box of Shocks is left behind. In multiple attempts to get the box back, Oliver learns about Diggory, the boy who now lives in his old house—and revelations of his family life are more shocking than anything the box could ever hold. Writing in an immediate first-person perspective, McMahen focuses solely on Oliver; Diggory is peripheral and vague, save for an awkward school scene late in the narrative in which hints of emotional abuse finally slip out. Diggory vanishes when his parents skip town, and readers are left wondering about his fate, but Oliver grows and comes into his own.
A light and capable read, despite (or while glossing over) some serious themes. (Fiction. 8-12)