What do you get when you write a novel from a pre-teen boy’s perspective? Lots of bike riding, baseball, as well as a few monsters and some magic thrown in for good mystery. That wrapped up with a murder mystery makes for a pretty good story.
I purchased Boy’s Life years ago from the Barnes and Noble clearance rack. The book actually contained two novels from the same author, Robert McCammon. For some reason (well, I know the reason – it is because I love to buy books and have so many that it is hard to get to them all!) I had never actually read either of the novels that came in this book. Until now. For some reason a couple of weeks ago I was looking for a book to read and this one said it was time.
The book tells the story of growing up in small town Alabama in the 1960s, from the perspective of an 11 year old boy, Cory Mackenson. He spends his days with the usual 11 year old issues, domineering teachers, schoolyard bullies, and finding time to hang out with your buddies. Throw in some monsters and magic and you make for a complete childhood. Cory has an active imagination, and uses it to create complex, whimsical stories to entertain his friends and begin an exploration of a career in writing.
However, like any small town, its residents have their share of hardships, further compounded by the local version of a crime boss, and the typical tensions between white and black citizens in the Civil Rights Era South. If that weren’t enough, early in the novel Cory and his father witness the disposal of a John Doe body in an old quarry-turned-lake. Despite law enforcement’s efforts at identifying the man and his killer, the lake gives up no secrets. And it haunts Cory and his father relentlessly.
Although it seems like there are a lot of disconnected themes going on in the novel, the author weaves them together well, with humor and a sober reflection that seems difficult for an 11 year old. Somehow it works. It does require a suspension of disbelief at certain parts; made easier when you consider the narrator. Didn’t we all have a healthy belief in monsters and magic at that age?
If I had to voice a gripe, it would be that you wouldn’t expect your average, small town, 11 year old to have witness so much death and destruction at such an early age. Apparently this Alabama town isn’t as sleepy as the ones I have encountered.
This book won’t blow your mind, or make you ponder the meaning of life, but nevertheless, it is a riveting read that kept me guessing with its plot twists and turns. Although not the genre of novel I typically go for, it kept my interest the whole way – and that’s saying a lot considering that at about 470 pages, it is rather on the long side of novels. A worthwhile read from the bargain bin.