The World of Normal Boys – K. Soehnlein

(We have not discussed this in the group and this review is in a personal capacity.)

Starting a new school, having unusual hobbies, being unsure of yourself, wanting to fit in: all of us remember this stage of teenage life, which the author describes well. Hanging out with the bad boys, doing drugs, having illicit sex to throw off the mother’s boy image are also common experiences as are bunking off school to avoid PE lessons. Perhaps less common, the teenage boys ‘experiment’ sexually whilst fiercely proclaiming that they ‘ain’t queer’, though I suspect everyone remembers the intensity of one’s first orgasm.

The main character begins, as teenagers do, to see his parents in a new light. His mother escapes into alcoholism while the father distances himself from emotions: when one of his sons has a serious accident, it is a technology challenge for the father to adapt the house so as to make it disabled-friendly.

The book captures the spirit of the 1970s well, its music and that dreadful fashion mistake known as the tank top.

Although I found this book very engaging, I would not go as far as the reviewer in The Advocate who described it as ‘a cross between the film American beauty and Edmond White’s A Boy’s Own Story.’

A bit of proof reading wouldn’t have gone amiss. The boy sees his mother smoke inside the house ‘for the first time’ on two occasions.

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