Not too long ago, narfna posted a review of Golden Boy that immediately sent me to my library’s website, reserving the book. And I read it soon after, gobbling it down and finishing it relatively quickly.
That was weeks ago. And I still find myself trying to figure out exactly what I thought of it.
Golden Boy is the story of Max. Max is a 16 year-old boy. He’s handsome and friendly, wealthy and popular, he’s the captain of the football team, and he’s super smart. He’s the proverbial “golden boy” that everyone wishes they were as a teenager. Except that Max wishes he was anyone else but himself. Max is intersex (both male and female). Max’s parents opted out of surgery when he was younger so that Max could decide for himself when he was old enough which gender he identified with more.
When Max is sexually violated by the one family friend who knows his secret, his entire world comes crumbling down around him. Max realizes that its time for him to learn more about his situation and to decide once and for all who is is and who he will be.
I loved it and I hated it.
Was it a wonderfully written book? Did it make me laugh and cry? Were the characters real? Did I feel their ups and downs? Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Golden Boy is one of the most masterfully written books I’ve read in ages. Tarttelin has a wonderful grasp on her characters, and I loved how effortless it was to switch from narrator to narrator, without a hitch. I wanted more from almost all of them: Max, his little brother Daniel, his girlfriend Sylvie, and his doctor Archie.
I really wanted more from his father’s perspective — the dad was quite a complicated character, and I feel like we got short-changed with what was going on in his head until the very end of the story. As a parent myself, I found the dad to be quite sympathetic. He loved his child above all else, and what that child decided to be (male or female) wasn’t as important to him as whether or not that child was happy and felt loved.
But as a mother, I couldn’t take the parts written from Max’s mom’s perspective. And while I know that means Tarttelin did her job well, Max’s mom — her words and actions — simply didn’t sit well with me. It was her story — not Max’s — that really stuck with me and left me thinking for days after I finished the book. It was her story that I hated. She made me wonder what I would do if faced with a similar situation. I’d like to think that I would be able to face the situation and put my child’s needs and wants above everything else, and I understand that EVERYONE is allowed to be selfish once in a while, but I can’t imagine ever abandoning the one person who needed me most. And that’s what bothered me.
But that’s the power of a great book, I guess. It makes you think, even if it makes you think about things you’d rather not.
Bottom line is, I”m really glad I read this book and will most definitely be following Tarttelin in the future. The parts that were wonderful outweigh the parts that bothered and upset me.