In my Young Adult Literature class we just talked about some of the characteristics of YA lit: first person narrator, first person perspective, limited number of characters, compressed timeline.
While Daniel Magariel’s debut novel One of the Boys meets the criteria, I would say the novel straddles the line between YA and adult fiction because despite the fact that the narrator is just twelve, this is a tough read.
None of the three main characters, the narrator, his older brother and their father, are named in the novel. When the story begins, the father has just picked up his son from his mother’s place. The boy and his mother had gotten into a fight and the father tells his son “She said you were out of control.”
The father wants custody of his sons and he convinces the narrator to lie about the altercation and to fabricate some photo evidence so that he can gain that custody. Once he has it, he and the boys leave Kansas and head for New Mexico.
“This will end the war,” he said. “No custody. No child support. This will get us free. Free to start our lives over. You’ll see. In New Mexico I’ll be a kid again. We’ll all be kids again. How’s that sound? Isn’t that what you want?”
New Mexico isn’t paradise, as the narrator and his brother soon discover. Their father is manipulative, controlling and dangerous. He’s also a serious drug addict and the boys have to learn how to navigate his highs and lows. There are no other adults in their life who might intervene on their behalf; everyone is out to get them. In order to be “one of the boys” they have to submit to his increasingly paranoid demands.
I didn’t love this book. I never really felt as though I knew these characters and watching their lives spin out of control, while troubling, didn’t offer the emotional gut punch I was expecting. There is some potentially triggering content and some sexual content that would certainly be a caveat for any teen who might want to read it.