Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Release Date – May 21, 2013
Publisher Website - Simon and Schuster/Atria
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 352 pages
My Rating- 4.5/5
**Received an ARC from publisher for review**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world.T hey are even better at keeping them from each other.Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he’s the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He’s even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max’s mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the facade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the facade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband Steve has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.To anyone on the outside Max Walker is perfect. He’s good looking, athletic, smart, and charming. He even comes from a seemingly perfect family. Nobody would guess that Max, the typical golden boy, has a secret.
The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret. Why won’t his parents talk about it? Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Who is Max Walker really?
Written by twenty-five-year-old rising star Abigail Tarttelin, Golden Boy is a novel you’ll read in one sitting but will never forget; at once a riveting tale of a family in crisis, a fascinating exploration of identity, and a coming-of-age story like no other.
This novel crushed me within the first 20 pages. The betrayal Max experiences is so crushing, so excruciatingly devastating that I was left drained. I had to pause, and take a moment before continuing the story. Abigail Tarttelin’s exceptionally good writing is showcased at it’s finest in these early pages, and as a reader I felt everything Max experiences.
The novel is told from many view points, and with Abigail Tarttelin's writing each character feels unique enough to have their own voice. Each of them adds another layer to the story, and add dimensions to the other characters. It’s interesting to see things from different angles and perspctives, especially in a scenario like the one presented in the story. There is no easy answer, and each person’s own motivations are going to factor into their decisions. I felt that was superbly handled and helped make each of the characters feel real.
Out of all the voices we get to hear, Max is the one that will stay with me. Every single part of me ached for him. His confusion, his anger, his pain, his guilt. There are lighter moments, bright specks amongst the usual grey, and each of those was something I wanted for the character to hang on to. I wanted to shield this character from the bad things that did happen, and could happen. A teenager who is just trying to figure out the usual teen angst, except adding in something that makes everything that much more complicated. The desire to just be himself tugs at Max. The pressure to be perfect and not shatter his family builds. Getting to see Max unravel is dramatic, and sad. I was haunted with how young his character seemed.
Daniel, Max’s little brother, was adorably sweet. A ten year old with a fun sense of sarcastic humour, and early teenaged temper. His anger at everything that is happening is understandable, and sometimes he felt older than his years as a result of everything that was going on. He was someone who could reach Max, even when Max didn’t want to be reached.
The Walker family is filled with love. It becomes apparent that this family is one that cares deeply about each other. Sadly, because nobody is perfect, they also hurt each other. The damage done by years of not communicating properly, and pretending finally catch up to them. Seeing them struggle to hold on is both heart breaking, and encouraging. I came to care about this family, and what happened to each of them.
The notion of sexuality and defining yourself is something that Max has to deal with throughout the entire novel. It’s not an easy question, and it’s one that is made even harder by the many secrets Max uncovers.
You may have noticed that I haven’t revealed what exactly happens to Max, or the events that happen in the aftermath. This is because the journey Max takes is best experienced with the character. Live the moments through the character, and enjoy the massive curves Abigail Tarttelin throws in. They’re shocking, and yet relate to the heart of the book.
The last bit of the novel felt a little off in terms of pacing compared to the rest of the novel. It’s slower, and, for me, didn’t flow with the rest of the novel. As I am reviewing an Advance Reader Copy, I am not sure if the same ending will be in the hardcover, but it felt rather abrupt.
A novel that I expect will have great cross over appeal with older YA readers. Both a coming of age story, and a look at what it means to define yourself, and who ultimately gets to make that decision. An emotionally draining, and yet insanely satisfying read.