A fast and fun read that doesn’t quite live up to the potential suggested by the premise behind the book – a video-game controller that can control people.
Fred and Ellie Stone are twins who look very similar (taking into account, of course, the fact that Fred is a boy and Ellie’s a girl). They also like the same things including superheroes, Japanese fantasy animation films, comics, maths and – most important of all – video games. That’s why they’re thrilled when a very special video-game controller mysteriously arrives in the post. A controller that they quickly discover has unbelievable powers. It can control people!
I love the idea behind ‘The Person Controller’ which provides enormous scope for strange and hilarious adventures. Unfortunately, while this is a fast and fun read, I don’t think the book fully lives up to the potential suggested by the concept.
The twins are appealing main characters although I personally preferred one of the other pairs of twins in the book – Scarlett and Stirling – whom Fred and Ellie nickname the “iBabies”. Many of the other characters are, however, horribly (and I can only assume very deliberately) stereotyped. This includes: the grossly fat father with his obsession for bacon sandwiches; a TV-addicted mother who’s only interested in watching ‘’Cash in the Attic’’; and the two school bullies – yet another pair of twins Isla and Morris.
The story draws heavily on slapstick humour that didn’t particularly appeal to me but which children will probably love. For example, the reason that Ellie needs a new controller is because her dad sat on her previous one and it got stuck between the cheeks of his “big, grey, bought-in-1987 Y-front PANTS”. Similarly, in what is described as a classic bit of bullying, Isla and Morris “plonk Fred in the computer-room bin bottom first, so that his legs stuck out like wheelbarrow handles” and, when Fred tries to get up, the bin becomes “attached to his bum, looking not unlike a snail’s shell.”
There seems to be a growing trend in the books I’ve read recently to use footnotes for informational or funny asides. While this works wonderfully in some books (particularly those for older readers), I felt the use in ‘The Parent Controller’ was overdone. Admittedly there are some amusing asides but I found the footnotes increasingly irritating and would have preferred to concentrate on the story without them.
The pace picks up in the last third of the story making the book hard to put down. Although the conclusion is far from original, I liked the underlying message which is strong without being too preachy.
Overall, this is a fun and silly story that a certain group of children will enjoy. If your kids liked this, they might also like David Baddiel’s previous book, The Parent Agency. Alternatively why not try books by the other David – Walliams, that is. He has a wild and zany humour that appeals to young readers. Try Billionaire Boy, The Demon Dentist, or The Boy in the Dress.
Publication Date: October 2015
Review first published on The Bookbag