Book Review: The Escapades of Toby Turner by Vaibhav Mehra

Fun and adventure combine in an entertaining young adult thriller.

Reading Time: 2 minutes


When your father vanishes under mysterious circumstances, how far would you go to find him? This question lies at the heart of children’s thriller The Escapades of Toby Turner.

Written by teenage author Vaibhav Mehra, it treats readers to an exciting journey of deception, manipulation, and search for the truth. Packed with twists and suitable for audiences young and old, it is an immensely entertaining novel.

The Escapades of Toby Turner throws readers straight into the action. Toby Turner, the charming but mischievous British teenager with a penchant for witty remarks, is on his way to the principal’s office again. He’s been falsely accused of another misdemeanour, with no one (including his father) taking his side. One doctored video later and he’s found guilty, put in the back of a police car, and headed for juvenile detention. A clever diversion lets him escape back to the family home, but his would-be angry father is nowhere to be found.

Instead, Toby finds his house ransacked, and a note with an ominous warning: “We’re coming for you.” Not knowing where his father is, or who is coming for him, Toby sets off to find answers.

The strength of Mehra’s novel is in the manner it engages its audience. Because the story is mostly told in first person, from Toby’s perspective, readers are directly put into the main character’s shoes. This means that all the shocks, turns, and deceits that Toby experiences are just as shocking and deceitful for us. In doing so, Mehra invests readers in his plot and lets them forge strong bonds with his characters.

And the characters themselves are fun to forge bonds with. Mehra goes to great lengths to describe each of his cast, making sure that we can both visualise them and understand their motivations. This is no mean feat for a teenage author – particularly when writing about adults, as Mehra often does (and does well). The people on the page come to life before us and we become more invested in their individual journeys.

Also commendable, is Mehra’s use of comedy. Using British characters to tell a story opens up a lot of opportunities for funny cultural clashes, and Mehra capitalises on this. In Escapades, this is realised mainly through the repeated inclusion of the word ‘bogle’ (a Scottish term neither Toby nor the audience ever really understands) and Toby’s dry English wit. These moments of comic relief provide a well-needed break from the story’s constant action, helping audiences recharge before the next important moment occurs.

And that action truly is constant. Readers must ensure they make the most of those comic relief breaks, because when Mehra hits his stride, his story does not slow down. Over the span of a few pages, audiences can be taken from Britain to the Caribbean, from Peruvian artefacts to World War I-era tanks, and from Toby’s perspective to the perspective of those around him. All of these elements can be interconnected if one is reading with close attention, but any drop in focus will mean an essential development or plotline is missed.

Nevertheless, The Escapades of Toby Turner is a thoroughly enjoyable book, one that keeps you guessing until the final page. The combination of interesting characters, humorous prose, and thrilling moments are all indicative of strong writing. Though it may be a little too action-packed at times, there is no doubt that Toby Turner has gone through one incredible escapade.

READ MORE:Zoe and Zara Wadekar, 7, debut as authors

Manan Luthra
Manan Luthra
Writer, cricket fan, gin and tonic enthusiast. Emerging journalist passionate about art, sport, and education

What's On