Monday, May 23, 2011

Book 40: About a Boy

My 1SG has a theory on relationships.  She believes that there is no one person that will be 100% perfect for someone else, and that the most anyone can hope for is to meet someone that meets 80% of one's expectations.  However, she also believes that people are attraced to the new and always looking for the new, and that usually whoever this new person is will meet the 20% that the first person cannot.  As a result, I obviously had to share this quote with her:
In the end, the thing that swung it for him in his affair with Angie was that he was not Someone Else.  That meant in this case he wasn't Simon, her ex, who had problems with drink and work, and who, with a cavalier disregard for cliche, turned out to be screwing his secretary.  Will found it easy not to be Simon; he had a positive flair for not being Simon, he was briliant at it.  It seemed unfair, in fact, that something he found so effortless should bring him any kind of reward at all but it did: he was loved for not being Simon more than he had ever been loved simply for being himself.  (24)
This is actually only the second Hornby novel I've read, which is honestly a bit surprising since one of my friends loves him (especially High Fidelity) and Hornby is rather popular with the Pajiba crowd.  I decided to make this one the second because I haven't seen the movie, and kind of want to since I like Rachel Weisz (I'm only, what, ten years behind the rest of the world?)
Hornby tells the story from the perspective of Marcus, a 12 year old boy who is both old for his age and naive, and Will, a 36 year old man-child to say it in simple terms.  Marcus is the child of divorce, and he and his mother Fiona have recently moved to London.  His mother struggles with depression, and Marcus understands that things aren't quite normal.  He also doesn't fit in at school because his mom is a feminist, vegetarian hippie who is opposed to most new popular culture and has raised her son on Joni Mitchell in the time of Nirvana and Snoop Dogg.  Being the new kid, he gets picked on quite a bit.
Meanwhile, Will's friends are growing distant from him as they become more mature and have children.  Will doesn't want children, but when he realizes during a chance meeting with Angie that he has a chance with beautiful women that would normally never give him the time of day simply because they are single mothers, he feels like he has hit a gold mine.  Unfortunately, he doesn't know any other single mothers, so after Angie breaks up with him, he pretends to be a single father to join a group for single parents.  Suzie, one of the mothers in the group, is friends with Fiona, and Marcus and Will meet during a single parents' outing.  Suzie had invited Marcus to give Fiona a break but when they drop him off at the apartment, they find Fiona unconscious on the couch after a failed suicide attempt.
Marcus finds himself drawn to Will, and begins to spend time with him.  While Will is not a father figure, he understands high school, bullies and pop culture, and both of them learn things about themselves and the world through their interactions with each other.  Will becomes involved in the messiness of human relationships since Marcus pulls him into his world, and Will finds himself interacting with Marcus's parents as well.  Marcus begins to make relationships in high school as he learns about modern culture, and how to fit in.  At first Will doesn't understand these people, and he also says he would never want to kill himself because he doesn't care that much about anything.  Fiona in comparison cares about everything so much that it is obvious that she would be disappointed and overwhelmed by life.
I actually quite enjoyed the novel.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel about Will, a man that has no job due to family money, but he develops depths as the novel progresses.  I quite enjoyed Marcus, and his realizations about life.  This novel was set in '93/'94, so I enjoyed the throwback to the grunge era, and Hornby created flawed but likable characters.  It was a light read without being fluff, so I'm glad I finally got around to this.

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