Book Review: Boy’s Life

Boy’s Life came out back in 1991, so I realize it might be old news to some of you, but I came across it recently due to a sale that was running on Kindle. As usual, I jaunted over to Goodreads to check out the reviews, and this one just seemed like a home run, so I bought it. Finally got around to reading it, and I absolutely adored it. The best comparison I can think of is that it’s a light horror version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes, I realize that’s setting this book up against one of the most beloved American novels of the last ever, but I don’t think that’s too big of a stretch.

It follows a year in the life of a 12 year-old boy in Alabama in 1964. The big plot arc is focused on a murder that happens at the start of the book, as the boy wonders who did it and why something like that would happen in his small hometown. But interspersed throughout all the murder mystery are slice-of-life elements about school, work, small town life, and growing up. McCammon does a fantastic job with his prose, describing it all in a way that’s both beautiful and engrossing. (Two things that don’t always pair up in books.)

Despite the POV of the main character, it’s important to note this is definitely not a YA book. Not that the content in it would be bad for kids, but the style is much more mature. Think of it as the literary equivalent of the Christmas Story movie. It’s told by the main character when he’s already much older, looking back on the events from that year of his childhood. As a result, there’s much more reflection and idealization of the plot, and McCammon definitely indulges in many asides and mini soap boxes. Some have objected to that, but once I got used to the device, I didn’t mind it. The point of view is so consistent, those asides ended up only making it richer, in my opinion.

Additionally, the extra space away from those events makes it so the narrator can add context to what was happening historically. Having written my fair share of first person novels, it can be hard sometimes to hold back from going on side tangents–but you have to, because those are tangents a 16-year-old would make. Having an adult looking back on it makes some things strong and some weaker. It’s less immediate, but this isn’t that sort of a book. I really enjoyed seeing how much life could change in that one year, as the narrator went from being a boy to a young man, the nation wrestled with racial tensions and changing technologies, and the town struggled to stay relevant in a world that was already beginning to leave little towns behind.

In the end, it’s a lovely book. Well-written, accessible, engrossing, and just plain fun to read. I’m really glad I finally had a chance to get to it, and if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to give it a shot. 10/10


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