About a Boy
Author: Nick Hornby
Release Date: 1998
Will is approaching middle age and lives life to its most relaxing. Blessed with a life of leisure cashing in his father’s royalties from a popular Christmas song, he learns that single moms are an interesting group he could possibly date and comes up with an invented two year old named Ned and an excuse for why he’s never actually around. Through this group, he meets Marcus, a 12 year old who is as helpless as can be, raised by his mom to only listen to Joni Mitchell and have no sense of style or knowledge of anything another 12 year old would possibly want to talk about. Marcus and Will become friends after Marcus’s mother tries to kill herself, and the rest of the book follows both Marcus and Will’s development as people to more well rounded people (or more normal people, depending on your view).
This book has all the things Hornby is best at, with plenty of pop culture references and humorous inner monologues from dense male characters. Will and Marcus are both easy to root for in the cluelessness about the world around them (Marcus in terms of the actual world, Will is more clueless about being an adult). Also, you would expect the book to be about Will having a relationship with Marcus’s mother, or about a big reveal when Will’s lies are exposed, but those are more minor elements that don’t directly really steer the plot.
With all that said, I’d describe this book as a pleasant but somewhat forgettable read. The stakes never rise above a possible breakup, with even the suicide attempt towards the beginning being dealt with quickly and moved on from. The female characters in general have just enough depth to provide a learning experience for Will or Marcus. I’d put this one as better than “How to Be Good” but nowhere near “High Fidelity,” or “Slam.”