Publisher: David Fickling Books
Oppel bases his first YA novel on projects in the 1970s which tested the capability of chimpanzees to acquire sign language.
His setting, facts, and outcomes closely mirror events then, and we meet thirteen-year old Ben, an only child whose researcher parents adopt a neonate chimp, Zan, and rear him as part of the family.
Readers are drawn into the tension between the emotional bond which Ben and his mother form with Zan, the demands of the research which dominate the attitude of Ben's more inhibited father, and the increasingly fraught relationship he has with his wife and son.
Oppel also examines Ben’s teenage angst over his own personal relationships, and the ethics of animal experimentation in this absorbing novel.