Pop! by Mitch Johnson

Published by Orion Children’s Books, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Group, 2020.

I couldn’t put this book down! It’s a pacy, adrenaline-fuelled story and I absolutely loved it.

Queenie’s life changes when a plastic bottle containing the secret recipe for the world’s most popular fizzy drink, Mac-Tonic™️, washes up on the beach at her feet. The recipe had been thought lost, following a mid-air plane crash over the Pacific, and now that such priceless information is in Queenie’s hands she quickly finds her life is in danger; the Mac-Tonic™️ Corporation will stop at nothing to get their recipe back.

With its powerful themes of environmental destruction and corporate greed, the book is extremely timely and relevant. Despite being a work of fiction, there is much about the story that is true: namely the rate and scale at which humans are destroying the planet. The book’s images of an endless stream of empty fizzy drink bottles washing up on to the shores of the world’s beaches are a stark reminder of the threat of single-use plastic.

Pop! is also very much a character-driven story. Queenie is a fantastic lead – fearless and feisty – and someone you get behind right from the start. The depiction of the top executives and the CEO at the Mac-Tonic™️ Corporation is chillingly brilliant. These men are ruthless and cold-hearted, focused solely on the pursuit of profit and their own careers. They have absolutely no sense of corporate responsibility towards the planet. General Sherman, the oldest tree in the world, has been felled to make the boardroom table, the Statue of Liberty now clutches a giant bottle of Mac-Tonic™️, and projected across the face of the moon is an enormous Mac-Tonic™️ bottle top. Worst of all, the Mac-Tonic™️ Corporation view global warming as a marketing opportunity; the hotter the planet gets, the more people will thirst for an ice-cold Mac-Tonic™️.

The book also explores addiction. Huge swathes of the world’s population are addicted to the sugar and caffeine in Mac-Tonic™️; their brain chemistry is altered by it. As supplies run out, we witness people suffering alarming withdrawal symptoms. Their behaviour becomes increasingly erratic – even dangerous. With the whole world in thrall to a fizzy drink, the Mac-Tonic™️ Corporation wields enormous power and influence. The CEO even has a direct line to the president of the United States. In the portrayal of Ma (Queenie’s mom), someone who is almost permanently glued to her phone, we also get an insight into the all-consuming and distracting power of an addiction to mobile online gaming.

Pop! – rather like the fizzy drink at the centre of the story – is addictive. I devoured it greedily over the space of one weekend and now I’m recommending it to everyone.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 10+

Thank you to Hachette Children’s Books for sending me this book to review.

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