I received this novel as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My roommate thinks I have a fascination with sad or disturbing stories. She thinks I am crazy for purposely choosing books that deal with difficult subject matter. The thing is, I find that reading books that deal with disturbing content helps me understand the different ways that a person can be affected by a situation. It helps me remove some of my own biases and consider the perspective of the victim in a whole new light. Now, I know that the books I read are fiction. But I’d like to think that there is an element of truth to the emotions that the author conveys when writing about these difficult events.
In One of the Boys, a 12-year-old boy, his brother, and their father have won the war: they have managed to battle through their father’s bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their home in Kansas and drive straight to Albuquerque, eager to start life fresh with each other. The boys go to school, join clubs, and try to make friends. Their fatehr works from home and smokes cigars… while hiding a dirty secret. At first, life is looking up. But soon, the boys can’t help but notice their father’s absentmindedness, the late night noises, and the comings and goings of different people. And with these changes comes a life that is looking a little less happy and a lot more sinister, as the boys see their father change into someone erratic, someone violent. Someone that may one day hurt them.
This is a hard novel to read, and if there is anyone who finds it difficult to read about child abuse, don’t go for this novel. That being said, this is a very moving novel. The author really shows the various different emotions that the two boys feel towards their parents and towards each other. The boys (whose names we never discover) feel deeply even while they don’t express themselves fully; they are definitely not one-dimensional characters. The author not only depicts the pain and hurt they feel from the abuse but also takes the time to show the hope and desire for love that the boys feel. I think that the author really took the time to explore every emotion that is expressed in order to create a full picture of the boys and their emotional states before, during, and after dealing with abuse. It’s definitely not a happy story, and it really reflects the reality of child abuse. It isn’t always the case that children are rescued from a bad home and get their happy ending and perfect life. Oftentimes, the children have no support and must struggle in their circumstances and simply hope for the best. It’s a harsh reality but it is necessary for us to see because it challenges the assumptions that people make about victims of child abuse and the “ease” in which they can “move on” from their experience. This was a short read but it dealt with a difficult subject in a respectful yet truthful manner, and I appreciated that very much. This is definitely a novel to read if you think you can handle this topic!