I’d never read Nick Hornby before picking up this book. I had seen and enjoyed the movie with Hugh Grant (and Nicholas Hoult, who, by the way, is aaaaaaall growns up now).
But I’d heard great things about this book, so I picked it up on a recommendation from Pajiba.
As usual, the book was better than the movie. One of the reasons that books are generally better than movies is that books can take a moment and make it last without making it feel like it’s taking the two or three minutes that it’s actually taking you to read the words describing that moment. Books can take you into the psyche of the character and let you feel what they’re feeling, whereas the best that movies are able to do is to either hint at it or give you some cheesy voiceover.
(P.S. I still love movies.)
About a Boy tells the tale of a womanizing man-child who meets an unpopular kid. Will lives off the royalties of his father’s hit Christmas song, and Marcus is the child of a suicidal hippie tree-hugger.
Marcus is unpopular at school, and the usual parental advice of “ignore them” isn’t helping. And the fact that his mother might still be suicidal makes it even more difficult for Marcus to deal with everything going on at school. The only time when he’s able to just relax and be himself is when he’s slumped over on Will’s couch, watching “Countdown.”
I liked that Hornby went back and forth between Will’s and Marcus’ points of view. And I like that Will and Marcus help each other without it being an obvious Ebenezer Scrooge-like transformation. Will cares about Marcus despite his selfish nature, not because Marcus is such a lovable kid, but simply because he senses that he can offer help, and it won’t be too difficult to proffer that help. Will’s afraid of getting involved with people because he likes that his way of life leaves him untouched and invulnerable to emotional hurt by others. But because of Marcus’ persistence, he can’t avoid seeing that Marcus is hurting and that it’s in his power to help.
I loved Will’s epiphany in the book that, while he was the last person qualified to teach Marcus how to be a man, he was the best qualified to teach him just how to be a kid. He thought he was worthless to Marcus because he lived this man-child lifestyle, but that information actually came in handy to a kid trying to fit in at a new school.
About a Boy was touching and funny without being cloying or overly sentimental. And that’s what I appreciate most about Hornby’s writing. It’s a quality that we seem to be losing as a society: subtlety.