The BUZZ: Hornby has a knack for writing novels that become more, and About A Boy is no exception. A decade after the film (starring Hugh Grant) appeared, NBC loosely based a sitcom on the book. This is where it all began.
The GIST: Will Freeman, in his mid-thirties, is the boy who never grew up. Born into inherited, never-depleting wealth (the royalties from a hit Christmas song his father wrote), he does essentially nothing with his days. This seems to work for him, except that he doesn’t have a woman in his life. To find a date, he poses as a single father at a support group, and that becomes the inauspicious start to his inevitable journey toward adulthood. His unlikely guide is 12-year-old Marcus, a brainy misfit who sees Will as his hero. Will would prefer to avoid the mess of being a human who cares, yet he can’t help but care about Marcus. The boy’s life is complicated: divorced parents, a depressed mother, bullies at school, and really ugly shoes. The shoes are about all Will thinks he can help with, but life is never so simple. Despite his best efforts to stem the tide, Will grows into the man Marcus sees him as. And, because of Will, Marcus grows into himself.
The WRITING: Stripped clean. Hornby tells his story without melodrama. We know what Will thinks, no matter how appalling, and we know what Marcus thinks, no matter how poignant. The crisp prose lets us get to the heart of the story quickly, and we pull for these characters. They’re maddening and they’re endearing; they’re funny and they’re redeemable.
BUY or BORROW?: Borrow. About A Boy is entertaining, yet there’s no fluff. A quick, tender, clever read for summer days.
Life was, after all, like air. Will could have no doubt about that anymore. There seemed to be no way of keeping it out, or at a distance, and all he could do for the moment was live it and breathe it. How people managed to draw it down into their lungs without choking was a mystery to him; it was full of bits. This was air you could almost chew.