There is so much I want to say about Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin, but I don’t want to ruin the story for you. What I can say is – go out and read it! Max is the Golden Boy of the Walker family. He is everything parents could want in a child – good looking, smart, athletic, compassionate and well behaved. And then something changes. Although Golden Boy tells the story of one boy’s teenage struggles, it is really about how a family unravels in the face of unimaginable complications.
I did not want to put Golden Boy down for the first 100 pages. Tarttelin dangles little details of the story above your head in such a way as to make it impossible for you to turn away from the book. The story unwinds as you read along. At times it is like a car crash that you can’t look away from, at other times the thoughts of the characters wrap you up and won’t let you go.
Each chapter in Golden Boy is told from a different point of view. These points of view include Max and his family, his girlfriend and a doctor. In general, I like when novels unfold in this way and Tarttelin does a fabulous job at recounting events from more than one point of view. Really getting into the head of each character is one her strengths and she presents each character’s motivations and feelings with ease. Tarttelin herself is only 25 and I thought she did a wonderful job of getting inside the heads of parents. Less convincing was her portrayal of Max and his girlfriend. In many ways they were mature and wise beyond their years. In particular, Max could explain things to his younger brother with insight and precision that few adults can achieve.
Who would like this book? So far Golden Boy has garnered a lot of comparisons to Annabel by Kathleen Winter and Middlesex by Jeff Eugenides, both of which are superb books. The reasoning behind this is that all three deal with intersex children coming of age. And for that reason this book may not be to everyone’s taste. I would put Golden Boy in the same category as The Dinner by Hermann Koch, one of my favorite books of this year, because of the way it is written and how a single issue can tear apart a family. In terms of how the story unfolds it also reminds of The Yohanlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani, which I will review on Thursday.