About a Boy

Monday, July 15, 2013

About a Boy
by Nick Hornby

Marcus, an unusual 12-year-old and Will, a detached 36-year-old cross paths in an unexpected way and find themselves forming an odd friendship. The two seem to have nothing in common, but somehow they bond. Marcus’ mother struggles with depression and his father lives out of town. In addition to that he is mercilessly bullied at school. Will provides a bit of objective advice about his life and a safe haven for the overwhelmed boy.  

“Sometimes Marcus sounded as though he were a hundred years old, and it broke Will’s heart.”

I love the way Hornby writes and the characters he creates. You don’t actually have to like the characters to like the story. I really appreciated the fact that Hornby didn’t force some unbelievable romantic relationship into the story. He lets the friendship take center stage. His books often revolve around man-children who are terrified to grow up and accept any real responsibility. Will definitely meets those requirements and he bugged me throughout the book. He is supposed to be so incredibly cool, but he just came across as a complete loser to me. He has no real friends or family. He has never held a job in his entire life. Every single decision he makes is completely selfish and self-serving and he is a habitual liar. All of those are red-flags and if I found out a guy I was dating lied about having a child, I think that would be a serious deal-breaker.

Marcus was by far by favorite part of the book. His odd way of looking at the world (possibly autistic?) is so honest, but also heartbreaking. He’s completely logical, but can’t pick up on normal social cues or sarcasm. It’s his influence on Will, unknowingly encouraging him to take a risk and try to engage in his own life, which had the biggest impact on me. It made me a bit sad that Marcus changed so much by the end of the book.  

“All three of them had had to lose things in order to gain other things. Will had lost his shell and his cool and his distance, and he felt scared and vulnerable, but he got to be with Rachel; and Fiona had lost a big chunk of Marcus, and she got to stay away from the casualty ward; and Marcus had lost himself, and he got to walk home from school with his shoes on.”

BOTTOM LINE: I enjoyed this odd story about an unlikely friendship. It’s not my favorite Hornby novel (that would be High Fidelity and Juliet, Naked), but it’s up there. It’s also a good place to start with his work. I have a feeling that Marcus will stick with me for quite a while.


JaneGS said...

I absolutely loved the movie, and have only read a small amount of Hornby (mostly essays and book reviews) so this seems like a good place to start.

I agree about not having to like a character in order to like their story, and your comments on Marcus are spot on.

Enjoyed this review--maybe I'll get the book so I can put it on next year's TBR challenge!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I adore this movie and own the book but I'm still just not sure that I have enough space between the two yet. I mentioned this somewhere on someone's Top Ten Tuesday post--was it yours? #badmemory I loved High Fidelity (LOVE the movie) but it was the same thing--too similar to the book. I wish I had known about Hornby the author before discovering all of the movies. Juliet, Naked is definitely on my list, too. As is some of his non-fiction work. So many books!

Rob said...

Read this recently and really enjoyed it. Love his characters. My favourite of his so far is probably The Long Way Down.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

JaneGS - I watched the movie years ago and had mostly forgotten it. I re-watched it yesterday and loved it. There are some aspects that I think are actually communicated better on screen than in the book.

Trish - I definitely get that. I usually need a big gap if I watched the movie first. Otherwise I just spend the whole time I'm reading it comparing the two.

Rob - The Long Way Down is somewhere in the middle of my Hornby list. I enjoyed parts of it, but it breaks your heart too.

Nikki Steele @ BookPairing.com said...

Interesting. Did you end up liking Will by the end of the story? Does he actually grow as a character or still stale manchild toast?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nikki - That's a good question. Honestly I can't say I liked him by the end, but I do think he changed. He finally found someone that was worth engaging in life for. It was a good changed, but he still felt very empty to me.

Bittner said...

I literally just finished this one! I loved it! I felt the character of Will was more likable in the movie version but grew in the end. And I loved Marcus too. I didn't pick up on anything possibly autistic about him, but it is possible since Hornby's son is autistic and that was probably on his mind when creating the character.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bittner - I agree that Will is WAY more likeable in the movie and his redemption is made much more clear. I heard they are making a TV show based on the book and I wonder how that will be different from both the book and movie versions.

I think Marcus seemed a bit autistic to me because of his lack of emotional connection with the world and his inability to understand sarcasm. I don't know if that's what Hornby intended though.