Making connections

Nick Hornby's novel About a Boy brings together Will, a wealthy 30-something bachelor, with Marcus, a 12-year-old who's alienated at school and miserable at home, where his depressed single mother attempts suicide. The idea is that Will, a big kid himself, can instruct Marcus on the basics of how to be a teenager. It's a good setup for a comic novel, and the narrative strategy--alternating between Will's perspective and Marcus's--is clever. Even though Hornby positions Will to score points against his empty lifestyle (Marcus ends Will's emotional isolation), the book stays fairly companionable until Hornby stops trying to disguise the life lessons he's imparting.


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