4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 October 2009
Amazon asked me if I was over 13 before it let me write this review, which is quite telling, I think. This isn't a book for children. Holly Howitt's debut novel might be called The Schoolboy, and the protagonist might be the titular character, but it's about an experience of being a schoolboy that (I would hope) nobody reading it would share. The main character, Nick, is little more than a child, confused by his surroundings and life, but somehow allowed to run amok. He's slipped through the cracks as far as all authority figures are concerned and allows himself to act upon every urge that most teenage boys have; in particular, the complete lack of self-restraint.
Nick is a great character, and it's lucky, as he drives this book in every way. His voice is absolute, refined, and the reader cannot help but be sucked along with his journey. This book draws upon the same bank of inspiration as Catcher In The Rye, Lord Of The Flies, God's Own Country and Notes On A Scandal, and yet manages to be nothing like any of them; The Schoolboy takes you somewhere else, somewhere different, darker, unexpected.
This is a simply superb piece of writing, and one that I hope properly kick-starts the career of an astonishing writer.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 2011
On receiving this book I made a conscious decision not to read the blurb. I did, however, note down my initial thoughts on the books content judging by the cover information. Firstly I deduced that the book was about a schoolboy, not very hard to work out given the title. I also grasped from the imagery that it may be about a journey that boy goes on, perhaps within school, between schools or in general life. One area in which I was highly judgmental was the sex of the author. Due to this novel being penned by a female I gathered the story would be sugar coated tales of boarding school, of magical adventures or simple trials and tests teenagers endure throughout school.
I was delighted when I began reading to find nothing was sugar coated, there was only the raw story, brash and harsh. The most shocking aspect I found to this book was not it's content but the fact that a woman had written such a vivid, violent tale from a young boy's perspective. The novel is definitely not for the faint hearted and tells a desperately angry and confused tale about a boy, called Nick, lost in a battle between his emotions.
The text draws upon the fact that it is difficult enough to go through school and experience puberty and all the changes that happen to your body without having any of the problems that Nick encounters. Throughout the journey with Nick I found myself struggling to decide whether I believed him, whether I felt sorry for him or whether it was all his own lies and he was simply sadistic. Part of me wanted to sympathize and believe his actions had been persuaded by his mixed up older brother. Another part of my brain cried out that I was sympathizing with a violent rapist. Eventually I gave up trying to work him out and just read the account without prejudice. Similarly I gave up trying to work his friends and parents motives and actions out.
Is Andy gay? Do Nick's parents care about him? Would they believe him over Paul? Was Mr Craven really trying to help? It is evident that I have come away from this read with more question than I started. Despite the constant questions arriving on my lips and the continual struggle in my brain to choose sides I ignored myself and continued. Not because I had to finish what I had started but, because I was compelled by Nick's tale. I needed to know how it ended for him, whether everything he said was real or lies. I wanted to find out if he performed any more attacks. I especially wanted to know how he felt, whether he knew there was a boundary between right and wrong. This may have been the only question to which I got an answer. In the very last line Nick states he is not sorry, he believes what he has done was justified and he was calculated. Always in threes.
The book is thought provoking and judgment testing. Similarly to a black hole the story sucks you in and then leaves you in the dark.