Unlikely Exploits Series

  • Book Series
  • By Philip Ardagh
  • Reviewed by Kit

The following are out of 5

Racial Representation: 2

LGBTQ+ Representation: 0

Disability Representation: 0

Body Size Representation: 5

Gender Representation: 5

Socioeconomic Representation: 5

Mental Health Representation: 0

Religious Representation: 1

Own Voice: No

The Unlikely Exploits Trilogy tells the surreal, morbid and at times strangely beautiful story of the quirky and determined McNally children whose unique inheritance puts them in the path of all manner of bizarre dangers which they boldly face as a family. While the world of Unlikely Exploits isn’t hugely diverse, it’s notable for the realistic (in relation to everything else that happens in the trilogy) and consistent portrayal of the poverty the McNallys live in. It affects everything they do (there’s a lengthy plot detour kicked off by the fact they can’t afford the bus tickets they need to get to a plot-vital location). They can’t afford a lot of basic necessities, they frequently worry about money but this never stops them from coming to the defences of people worse off from themselves. As the narrator points out the McNallys “aren’t gong to win any beauty contests”. This doesn’t stop them from being deeply brave and compassionate people. It’s pretty rare for a story that tell us that the heroes aren’t conventionally attractive actually follow through on this. The McNallys are all heavily blemished, have ruddy complexions, uneven teeth, large noses and are generally shabbily-dressed. They never get prettied up or lament their appearance and even the villains don’t comment on their unusual looks. Continuing from this the female McNallys are never defined by their appearance or treated differently from the male which is aggravatingly rare and, without giving too much away, the strongest person in the entire tale is an unassuming little girl. There is also a truly poetic and beautiful depiction of grief and the way that humans cope with the reality of death. One overarching theme of the trilogy is the idea that even in the worst circumstances there is space for levity.

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