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Monday, May 13, 2013

My Thoughts: Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he’s the perfect son, the perfect friend, and a perfect crush for the girls in his school. He’s even really nice to his little brother, Daniel, a decidedly imperfect ten-year-old. Karen Walker is a beautiful, highly successful criminal lawyer, who works hard to maintain the facade of effortless excellence she has constructed over 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. Steve Walker is also a successful prosecutor, so much so that he is running for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.

But the Walkers have a secret. Max was born with forty-six XX chromosomes and forty-six XY chromosomes, which makes him intersex. He identifies as a boy and so has been raised lovingly that way. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of Max’s 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 and who will he be in the years ahead?

While Max and his family face life-changing questions, revelations, and the ever-present threat that Hunter presents, Max falls in love. He might be flawed, but could he be the perfectly imperfect boyfriend for misfit Sylvie Clark, the oddball loner in his class?

Review Copy received from Simon and Schuster Canada

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin has got to be one of the most powerful novels I have read in a long time. This novel had me considering societal expectations of normal and what it means when an individual does not fit into those expectations. Never has a book provoked me in a way that Golden Boy did. Throughout the novel I was heartbroken and angry, I was confused and anxious. Also, in this book I have never said bastard so many bad words as much as I did while reading.

Golden Boy follows the story of Max an intersex individual who has been identifying as a boy for the majority of his life and for the most part is a well adjusted kid. However, something terrible happens to Max and I warn you, it is terrible and it will sicken you. The things that Max has to deal with and overcome are something that anyone need to face. Golden Boy was a much heavier read that I had originally expected.

Golden Boy is told from a number of different POVs: Max, Daniel (Max's nine year old brother), Karen (Max's mum), Sylvie (Max's love), Archie (Max's doctor) and a bit toward the end Steve (Max's dad). I am one who loves reading stories from all kinds of perspectives. This was a really interesting aspect of the novel and one that I think was really important. There were a few times one of the characters would make a decision and I would not understand why, seeing the situation from their point of view would help clarify things, or make them even more confusing.

Tarttelin approaches the subject of being intersex and what it means very well. She doesn't glaze over things and she doesn't over glamorize the situation. It is all very authentic, and what every one is feeling is also very believable. At one point I thought that perhaps the story took an extreme turn, but as I read further I realized why the author chose to do what she did. It all makes sense in the end.

 Max's mother had to have been one of my least liked characters. Even less than Hunter. She made a lot of decisions with the idea that she was doing what was best for her family. Sometimes these decisions were so misguided it was hard to understand her reasoning, even when it was explained. I said a lot of nasty things when it came to her. I just could not think like she did. It was maddening.

Overall, Golden Boy was a phenomenal novel. That deals with a topic that isn't really talked about or acknowledged. Tarttelin takes on the task in a tasteful and thought provoking fashion. The writing is beautiful and real, and the contents of this novel will stay with you long after you've read the last page.

Happy Reading Everyone!

PS- for those in the GTA be sure to Abigail is going to be in town- info below


  1. Wow. So I never would have heard about this one had I not read this review for it. It is so powerful that this one had such a great affect on you. And it sounds absolutely well executed for the tough subject matter. I think I would really appreciate the multiple POVs, too. Ahhh, excellent, thanks for this review, Sara!!

  2. Hi Sara,
    first of all, thanks for coming to my blog. Really appreciate your visit. I already a follower now. =)

    Golden Book, after I read your review, is right away goes to the top of my TBR list. The story is powerful and this is the kind of book I'm sure that I will love it. Thanks for sharing.

    alhafizol @ CoffeeNCrackers


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