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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read!
I was very surprised to find that this is the first novel from Jonathan Trigell, Boy A is a very powerful & hard-hitting book, written in a very easy to read style and totally unputtdownable!
Boy A, or Jack as he is now called, is a young man released from prison after being locked up for most of his life. The book charts his release in to the real world and how he...
Published on 25 May 2004 by alb

versus
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A formidable moral dilemma
This is not about the Jamie Bulgar case, though it has distinct and unmistakable echoes of that case that suggest it could not have been written without its real-life counterpart having taken place. It has almost the same scenario - two boys, both miserable, seemingly unloved, one under the influence of a brutal older brother, the other easily led, and a day when they...
Published on 13 Sep 2009 by Eileen Shaw


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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read!, 25 May 2004
By 
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
I was very surprised to find that this is the first novel from Jonathan Trigell, Boy A is a very powerful & hard-hitting book, written in a very easy to read style and totally unputtdownable!
Boy A, or Jack as he is now called, is a young man released from prison after being locked up for most of his life. The book charts his release in to the real world and how he deals with everyday situations that we all take for granted. He also has to learn to cope with the aftermath of the horrific act that got him sentenced. One minute a monster, one minute a boy who just did something very bad when he was young, Jack really gets under your skin and causes you to think – what if?
Totally different to any other book that I have read recently it is also very refreshing to read a book where the ending did not disappoint! I can not recommend this enough.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Structured and observed, 6 Jan 2008
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
Reading the publisher's blurb gives you an idea of the plot but reading the book is something different. Boy A is "reborn" following a spell in various prison establishments and is let free. This is his story - but as we go through the chapters of the novel, each one starting with a letter of the alphabet, his backstory is revealed - it seems that Boy A can never escape his past, despite having done the time for his crime.

The reader is made to feel something of a voyeur - because the shame of Boy A (now called Jack) is so deep. There are indications that Boy A is in the same position as one of the killers of Jamie Bulger - of being described by the media as a monster who has done something unforgiveable and inhuman. The reader is put in the position, frequently, of the public. There are allusions to the publicity surrounding the crime in the tabloids, and the role of the media in Jack's life is fundamental to the plot: despite the theory of crime and punishment, it seems that there can be no redemption, and no new rebirth.

The author intends us to feel not only pity for the protagonist, but also to explain how he has come to be this way - exploring through the medium of the old case files and the history of Boy A how he has never received the love and attention that would have led him to grow up as a socially responsible member of society, and thus how Boy A has lacked the appropriate stimuli to develop properly. There is even the possibility that Boy A was the accomplice to the crime committed by the other boy, and that he was unaware of the extent of the crime caused. As a child he has been tried in an adult court, and both prior and post sentence, he has never really been cared for by adults. Only his cell mate and his probation officer have a link with him.

Above all, this is a story about love and the lack of it, and of innocence and corruption - Jack's probation officer has formed more of a close relationship with Jack than with his own son, from whom he is estranged following his divorce from his wife. The denouement centres around jealousy and envy - Zed being the complete opposite of Boy A, yet someone who lives within the law as it is understood by the media.

If I were to summarize the obvious about this book it would be "hug a hoodie". But this misses out the way that the book plays to the reader - rather carefully manipulating the reader throughout, so we are put through a mixture of responses (voyeurism, shock, horror, sympathy, empathy, distaste and judgement) as we work through the alphabet of who Jack is: Jack the lad, Jack of all trades, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy - and who he might, with a bit of luck, become.

This is an excellent novel, and worth spending time on, if only to explore your own reactions to the situations described.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very thought-provoking, 19 April 2008
By 
Annabel Gaskell "gaskella2" (Nr Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
I didn't want to enjoy reading this book due to its subject matter - I didn't want to admit that I could empathise with someone who was capable of doing such an awful act, but I did - particularly because he was only ten when 'it' happened.
Having to start afresh when released into a world of which he has no experience requires courage and the guiding hand of 'Uncle Terry' - Jack's surrogate father. Jack's doing well, trying hard at working, making friends, and getting a girlfriend, but the media continually keeps nibbling away at the fact that a (child) child-killer is lose in the community - surely it can't end happily ever after?
The author cleverly builds up the tension, interweaving layers of the Boy A's neglected childhood and the crime itself, with life in prison, and life outside in the real world. Told mainly from Jack's PoV, but also from his friends, case-worker Terry and girlfriend Michelle. Things are never black and white, just different shades of grey... A really thought-provoking book that I'm glad I read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 16 Jan 2008
By 
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
The idea of creating a book trying to draw sympathy for a suspected child killer is bold, beautiful and brilliant.
The book is absorbing, drawing you into Jack's new world while never letting you forget his past.

I read this after seeing the TV special (which I usually try and avoid doing), and for a change they stick very closely to each other - the only real difference being that the book contains much more backstory to the characters in Jack's world: his mum, Terry, Boy B, etc.

Would recommend this book to anyone, especially mature teen readers who can always do with a bit of a moral grey area to get them thinking.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab to read, 7 Nov 2011
By 
SJSmith (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading `Boy A' as much as I enjoyed watching the film adaptation for television a number of years ago. It isn't a lengthy novel so it is never going to go into a massive amount of detail. There are reviews that I've read where people would like to see the book being about Boy B and I can see why as there would surely have been more meaty prose to write (a possible idea for a second novel?), however the information the author gives us about Boy A's involvement makes it more worthwhile for me. At the critical point he could have stopped but he didn't and whilst the crime isn't made explicit - well obviously it resulted in murder but the bit before the murder - the reader is left to wonder over sexual assault or even rape. Although during the recount aspect of the novel, Boy A continually states he wasn't involved it is left up to the reader to come to their own judgement.

It is certainly an easy book to read in terms of length and style and I loved the alphabetical chapter headings, fitted in well with the idea of Boy A and Boy B. Even though it is fiction there is the obvious impact real life events had on the ideas for the novel and for me this book gives you an insight into the thoughts about what goes on behind the scenes and how a new life is created for criminals who have served their sentence but need protection (and should they actually be given it but that is outside of the realms of a book review!). I found the relationship between Terry and Jack very interesting but wonder how much the boundaries between this professional relationship would come across in real life; he really did love Jack more than his own son.

A lot is crammed into such a small number of pages and it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if his identity hadn't been worked out until much later on when he may have had a family - the implications there are so different to what Jack as the age he is in the novel faced. I also loved the ambiguity about who actually called the press. The reader is left to wonder so much.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Hitting and Thought Provoking, 5 Jun 2011
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
At long last, I've finally gotten around to reading Boy A. I really enjoyed the film adaptation of this novel some years ago and wanted to leave a good while before reading the book. I was prompted to pick it up by the fact that Daniel Clay's novel; 'Broken' is about to be adapted by the same director.

Boy A is one of those novels that will make you 'think'. Putting aside the sensationalist media reports about recent children who have killed, the reader can get a glimpse into what life could be like for someone who has been convicted of a very serious offence.

Powerful, gripping and of course, sparking controversy, but never trite, never overly emotional - hard-hitting and gripping writing.

Very highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The aftermath of juvenile crime, 30 July 2009
By 
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This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
Boy A

This is a must read - but an uncomfortable book to read - very thought provoking. Boy A, as a child, committed the most horrific, chilling crime. Newly released from jail, with a new identity to give him a fresh start, and to keep him safe from public outrage and revenge, he has to learn how to live again.

How clever the author is to make us feel real sympathy for the offender. Despite the horror of his crime, we really want him to adapt better to the outside world and move on. So there is a real see-saw of emotions here - revulsion at the crime, an empathy for the awkwardness of the square peg in the round hole.

Extraordinary - 4.5 stars!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not "I suffered my childhood so you will feel better" story!, 3 Jan 2008
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
Boy A by Jonathan Trigell was first published in 2004 but reissued this year as being filmed for Channel 4. Despite its title, it is not of the "I had an awful childhood but survived so that you could feel good" genre. It's a fictional account of Jack (Boy A) and the events that lead up to and from his release from prison on license. He was a child murder of a child...or was he? Think of the 10 year old child murders of James Bulger in 1993 and the consequences should one of them try and rehabilitate back into society as adults. The crime paid for...but can the murder of an innocent ever be paid for? Is revenge more important then justice or forgiveness?

This is not a fractional account of what if, rather it explores the notion of what is evil and that love need actions for it to be love. However, it does this not by heavy moralizing and cut out figures that act as pegs for this or that idea. But is a post modernist novel in that we jump into other characters heads, and go up and down time over 26 chapters that follow the alphabet. But fear not, you don't have to rush back to your Agatha Christie as this creates a sense of foreboding and suspense.

During the course of the story we get inside Jack's head as he struggles to understand the world he has not seen since he was 10, and adjust to having a best friend (Chris) and even a girlfriend (Mitchell). But all the time his secret holds him back so he can never be truthful, never real with them. He is helped by his probationary officer (Terry), who genuinely cares for him and stands by him but at the expense of his own son's welfare with tragic consequences. In and out of this story we also find out what Boy A and Boy B did and the if's and what's of Boy A's deeds. We also see the consequences of parents not caring for their child and the indifferences of schools to bullying. But also us , the general public, and our responses to cases like this and the newspaper campaigns we support that forget the child and man as we become a lynch mob.

I found it a genuine page turner from the first few sentences that grips you with an urgency of trying to discover who and what the betrayal will be. Its short sentences, switches in time and character move the story along so that in the end you have to try and deicide if it's a battle of Evil versus Good. Or is it the battle that each of us face in tying to relate to others in love?

So would I recommend it? Well if you want cloying sentimentality, or a morality of black and white this is not the book for you. But if you want one that explores moral ambiguity and what love if not explored honesty leads to, then this is the book for you.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuine, thought provoking read, 1 Feb 2010
By 
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
Reading the blurb on this book, I wasn't sure how I would feel about reading this. In a plot that clearly takes its influence from the Jamie Bolger murder, it is bound to be a book that draws conflicting emotions from the reader. On the one hand you have a young girl, whose life is taken away at a devastatingly young age. Of course she is the innocent in this case and her murderers should be punished. But on the other, the lives of the young murders are destroyed forever by this one event, can you judge someone for the rest of their lives based on making such a huge error in judgment?

Before reading this, I would have been sure I could never sympathize with a killer, never mind someone who kills a child. But Jack does not come across as a killer, he comes across as an ordinary young guy just trying to make the best of things. He is likable, mostly for his naivety and his loyalty to his friends and his case worker Terry.

Mostly this book made me question a lot of things. Like how would I react if I realised I worked with someone who killed a child? Should people who have served their time be given a clean slate, or should they forever be tarred with that same brush? Also from a media perspective, how far should the media be able to go with reporting on high profile cases?

This book deserves all the praise it has gotten, I'd recommend to anyone who wants to read something that makes them think.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenge to our social conscience, 28 July 2009
This review is from: Boy A (Paperback)
'Boy A' reinforces the notion that we should never judge, that we shouldn't jump on bandwagons and that close individual scrutiny is necessary in all cases, a scrutiny which must be based on verifiable evidence. It also reinforces how vital to a child's upbringing are close parental ties, with every child being given plenty of love and time. Potential parents who cannot offer these basic ingredients for a happy life should not become parents.We should be circumspect in listening to the media, who may not be ethical, moral or just, too often only exploiting the public's fears.
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