This Boy

Candlewick/Walker. Apr. 2020. 288p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781536206050.
Gr 9 Up–This book follows Paul Walden through his four years of high school, from the first time he befriends Roby as an almost-freshman to postgraduation musings with Natalia as senior year comes to a close. It captures moments from sweet and small to tragic and life-altering. Readers will see Paul slipping toward substance abuse well before he’s triggered into full addiction, showing how it can affect anyone, no matter their background. The relatively slim volume advances rapidly and reads like a highlights reel (in the best way) as the story speeds through each year of high school. One can almost see it as a movie, the montage occasionally pausing to zoom in on a pivotal scene, solidifying characters and foreshadowing things to come. Over time, Paul becomes a fully realized character as Myracle constructs a movingly nuanced portrait of a boy, then young man. Paul shares his constant thoughts about girls, their bodies, hooking up, and masturbation in vivid detail while showing them respect, articulating the difference between lust and love, and referencing his mother’s advice.
VERDICT Myracle’s depiction of Paul, his deep friendship with Roby, his relationship with his mom, and his first love with Natalia (a strong and multidimensional young woman) will snag readers, both reluctant and voracious, as they root for each of them to make it through the difficult realities of life, high school, and love.

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