Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon – Book Review

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon - Book Cover

Well, it’s already clear from the introduction that you’re dealing with a verbose novel. But if that doesn’t scare you off too much, then everything’s okay, because the rest of “Boy’s Life” is not THAT dire. (Except for the very end: those three closing words are no small feat.)

Each chapter of the book is like a little novella. Some are better done (wasps), some less so (the UFOs), and by page 100, the story is still just at the exposition. And you’re waiting, thinking, “Okay, so what’s going to come out of this?” Then suddenly you realize that nothing special will. Then you also realize that it’s not such a huge problem; “Boy’s Life” doesn’t want to be anything more than just a boy’s and a town’s life through the former’s perspective, roughly over a year in the American South in 1964. But it’s certain that you’d be a wreck if all this happened to you in just one miserable year.

The chapters move the plot forward particularly slowly, and although some feel completely unnecessary and overwritten (Welcome, Lucifer or Get around), sometimes an event only makes sense much later – or has an impact on the characters. In short, there are also some that, besides being unnecessary and verbose, are also quite clumsy (Green-Feathered Hat).

Occasionally, the text indulges in commonplace preaching (both dream sequences).

However, the character portrayal in “Boy’s Life” is, hey, very well done; whoever emerges in the story is completely unique and memorable, and some characters are downright MAGNIFICENT, see for example, The Demon, the teenage monster, or The Lady, Vernon, or even the cosmic-paced Mr. Lightfoot, and you JUST CAN’T PUT THE BOOK DOWN because you can’t wait to meet them again. It’s rare to read a book where even the most minor character is so clearly identifiable. Also, the seemingly exceptional insight into human nature, from which the former presumably arises, is a rarity – thus, suddenly Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” or G. R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series come to mind, where the same can be observed (although in the case of the latter, the situation is made more difficult by the hundreds of bustling characters).

Robert McCammon’s book is mainly a young adult adventure novel, but not at all childish, because it speaks in the voice of a retrospective adult, with occasional glimpses of good-natured irony and mature wisdom between the lines. The text is pervaded by mystery, the typical Southern themes like racism, the supernatural world, and voodoo. But it also contains motifs of westerns and psychological drama – and of course, the crime genre, which frames the whole story, although this part is the thinnest, the most boring, and the least successful… when the parrot speaks, you immediately figure out where it’s all going.

In the infinitely sentimental (watch out, don’t cry!) and, needless to say, overly long epilogue, McCammon even sends some of the characters off in such a way that they immediately step out of their own characters (Gordo, Chile, and the poor Demon too).

And if this book has so many flaws, then why did it become such a freaking huge success?

Perhaps because “Boy’s Life” turns nostalgically to a time when family was even more defining, when the universal validity of love for each other was more pronounced. When kids were still kids and played outside, instead of sitting indoors in front of various screens, while everything slowly turning plastic around them. In the first place their stupid brains!


Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
610 pages, Paperback
Published in 2008 by Gallery Books

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