Boy by Blake Nelson (review)
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Reviewed by
Nelson, Blake Boy. Simon Pulse, 2017[368p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-8813-6 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-8815-0 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 8–12

Gavin Meeks is “tall and blond and good at tennis,” a self-definition he repeats like a mantra to try to understand who he is to himself as well as how he is perceived by others. A disappointment to his ambitious, goal-oriented father, Gavin has no real direction until he picks up his brother’s camera and becomes the assistant of a self-taught photographer, going out on gigs and learning his craft. Meanwhile, he’s pushed by friends into dating girls from his popular crowd, which he doesn’t really mind even though he’s more fascinated by a pair of indie girls who invite him into their lives despite their disdain for his friends. As Gavin relates his experiences through four years of high school, his narration is characterized by simple, straightforward sentences that flatten out even intense affects like the anger he feels for his father, or the confused mix of emotions that accompany his first experiences with love, sex, and his loss of friends and status after an ill-advised kiss. This has the effect of making him seem like a detached observer of his own life, which gives the photography motif particular salience. There’s no overt, Holden-Caulfield-style angst here, but Gavin’s general dissatisfaction and his encounters with the various personality types people are likely to meet in an average suburban high school will resonate with many readers trying to figure out what gives life meaning.

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