This Boy

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
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Poignant, funny look at being a straight, suburban teen boy.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Honest depiction of what it's like to be a straight, suburban teen boy in this day and age. Some information on premature babies and the medical attention they need. Detailed look at substance abuse -- how it happens and treatment for it.

Positive Messages

True friendship is worth its weight in gold. Always be yourself, even if you don't fit into specific cliques. Asking for help and showing emotion isn't a sign of weakness. Respect yourself and others in your life. Trust and honesty are the most important aspects of any relationship.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Even though some of the characters are flawed and make some poor decisions, they are all good people at heart. Paul is messy and goofy, but he loves fiercely and tries to do the right thing. Roby is honest, kind, helpful, caring, and above all true to himself. Paul's mom is open with her son and imparts good values. Natalia is a smart, independent girl who isn't afraid to speak her mind, and there are clues that she's Mexican American. Paul and Roby are presumed White.

Violence

Minor scrapes and bloody injury in a fall. Stories of people falling to their deaths from a cliff. Person talks about someone's neck snapping in a car accident, but there's no graphic description. Crude sex talk by boys at school makes girls uncomfortable. Some verbal bullying.

Sex

Lots of talk about sex, virginity, erections, and sexual urges. Paul mentions his penis a lot, watches porn, and talks about girls' bodies and how they sexually arouse him. Kissing, making out, descriptions of a few sex acts.

Language

Dialog peppered with strong language, including, "fuck" and variations, "shit" and variations, "piss," "damn," "d--k," "ass," "boob," "bunghole," "bitch," "butt," "t-ts," "God," "goddamn," "slut," "a--wipe," and "a--hole."

Consumerism

Paul is into fashion and the status of certain labels. Various brands and media mentioned throughout story, including Comme des Garçons, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Prada, Armani, Air Jordan, Chuck Taylor, Supreme, Waffle House, Krispy Kreme, Dominos, Nesquik, Ghirardelli, Monster energy drinks, Coke, Nespresso, McDonald's, Pop-Tarts, Pringles, Cheetos, Perrier, Chik-fil-A, Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite, Mortal Kombat, Spotify, Instagram, Netflix, and Snapchat.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some teen pot smoking and drinking. Drunk kids at a party. Mentions of "dabbing" (a way of consuming cannabis oil), Robitussin abuse, and "lean" (or "purple drank," a drink made of codeine, soda, and sometimes alcohol). Reference to parents selling pharmaceuticals to teens. A teen starts using illegally purchased pharmaceuticals and ends up with a substance abuse problem.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lauren Myracle's This Boy by is about a teen boy navigating the ups and downs of his high school years. Paul Walden narrates his four years of high school in an honest, funny style, detailing what he learns about his values, friendship, love, and family bonds. While the story has a light vibe, it tackles the serious issues of loss and addiction. Paul is brutally candid and crude, so expect some strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole) and lots of talk about sex, his penis, and the hotness of girls. Some characters use alcohol and drugs occasionally, with one falling into addiction. The story offers good discussion opportunities around social issues some kids face at school and how hard it can be to open up to others when in need.

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What's the story?

At the start of THIS BOY, Paul Walden is a freshman at his North Carolina high school, trying to figure out where he fits in. Should he toss aside his values to hang with the popular kids, or be true to himself and find friends with shared values? From there, Paul narrates his four years of high school, and his friendship with honest, sweet Roby takes center stage. The two become best friends, though that bond is tested more than once. The story is a funny, honest depiction of what it's like to be a straight teen boy in America: how to balance respect for women with nonstop adolescent sexual urges; how to be a good friend; how to deal with the challenging and evolving parent-child relationship; and how to cope with serious problems, such as addiction. Throughout, Paul learns lessons and make choices that show him who he is and the kind of adult he wants to be.

Is it any good?

This story shows an ordinary boy with an extraordinary voice hilariously and poignantly navigating his four years of high school. In This Boy, Paul Walden is a pretty average kid by most accounts, but his world view takes the reader on an engaging ride through the mind of a suburban American teen boy. Author Lauren Myracle does a stellar job of giving Paul a strong, unique voice that will make most readers feel like they really know him by the end of the book. Paul has hilarious takes on figuring out friendship, school social hierarchy, and dating. His friend Roby is endearing and adds a lot to the realistic feel of the book. So many of us have that one friend in our teens who isn't the flashiest, coolest, or edgiest kid, but is the solid, truthful, rock of person we desperately need. Roby fits that bill. Paul's journey shows what different people we are at 14 and 18.

The story takes a sharp turn in tone and plot at the end, which is jarring and reads like the author was trying to cram in a lot of "message" and information in the final pages. The issues and plot points are good, but the tone and pace change are so dramatic that it almost feels like a different book. Though, to be fair, the plot twist provides the kind of unexpected jolt many readers appreciate.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the teen drug and alcohol use in This Boy. How do you feel about the way it's depicted in movies, shows, and books? Do these stories make the issue feel more real to you? Do you understand how drugs affect young brains and bodies?

  • Many stories show how hard it is for teens to share their problems with friends and family. Do you ever feel this way? Why do you think opening up to others is so difficult?

  • Have you ever felt like you had to compromise your values in order to maintain to hang out with certain groups in school? What did you go through?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age books and high school stories

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