Posted in Book Reviews, Non-fiction

Book Review: The Boy in the Book by Nathan Penlington

Star Rating: 3.5/5
Title: The Boy in the Book
Author: Nathan Penlington
Publisher: Headline
Pages: 320
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, Search

As a boy Nathan Penlington had loved Choose Your Own Adventure novels. So when he came across a set of the first 106 volumes for sale on eBay, he snapped them up. Picking up the first, The Cave of Time, he was looking forward to a nostalgic trip back to his own childhood. What he discovered instead would send him off on adventure all of his own.

As he turned the pages, there was another story being written – in the margins were scribblings by the little boy who had originally owned them, a boy called Terence. There were hints on the coming adventure and jokes, but also something darker. Terence wrote about being bullied at school, the things he hated about himself, of a desperate need for friends. Later Nathan came across a few pages of diary:

Stole money from parents, bought airline ticket, ran away to Scotland.
Saturday – detention x2. Left school with intention to kill myself.
Drugs… Guns?

Even though it must have been twenty years since Terence wrote those words, it was clear that they were a cry for help. Nathan decided to answer that call: to find Terence, or at least find out what happened to him.

Nathan’s search for Terence is at once funny, moving and more than a little quixotic. There would be dead ends and crossed wires, and along the way Nathan would have to face his own childhood demons. It is a story about the dark places that can exist in any childhood, but also of the sanctuary to be found in books. And at the end of his adventure Nathan would find one more surprise: a friend.

I want to start off with a little disclaimer, I was sent this book by headline for free, however this will not effect my opinions on this book and I will still talk about what I actually think to the best of my ability.

When this book arrived I was shocked as to how big the book is!
It’s not the thickness but the size of the actual book, which is probably why it’s quite expensive for a paperback. This book is non-fiction and is the documented journey of the author to find a man. This sounds kinda strange, I admit, but let me explain; Nathan buys over 100 “Choose your own adventure” books that he used to read as a child off eBay. When they arrive a couple of pages from a diary of a boy fall out, the diary was written in the 1980’s which would mean the boy is now a man. After reading the diary entries Nathan begins to wonder what happened to this boy, whether he is even still alive, and what a lot of the notes in this diary mean. Whilst he is searching for this boy he also has to dive into his own past and bring a lot of things up that he may not want to discover.

The first thing that I absolutely adored about this book was the pure geekiness of it. There was so many facts and interesting information and there was even a part where Nathan visits a child Psychologist (so obviously I was a bit of a sucker for that) but there was just a lot of interesting and wonderful things that I learnt whilst reading this book and I did like the journey that Nathan went through, particularly when he finds a man who is creating a “diary archive” of sorts and he is collecting diaries from hundreds and hundreds of years ago and I just found it so interesting to see that teenagers never really have changed in their hormonal and over-dramatic ways.

I loved learning about the author as well, I began to really feel and like Nathan, he spoke a lot about having no friends as a child, which I could relate to and recalls about a life changing event which happens during his childhood that really made me understand about his obsessive ways, because let’s face it, it seems a little strange to go out and find some complete stranger whose diary happened to be in books you bought, but it was definitely a unique and interesting book.

Another thing I really liked about this might just be purely because of where I’m from. The author himself grew up in Rhyl which he talks about quite a lot and I used to go Rhyl beach every single year as a child and the way he spoke about Rhyl just brought memories of the beach flooding back to me which was quite nice. He also mentioned Liverpool a lot, I’m about twenty minutes train ride from Liverpool and I go to university here too, so i recognised a number of places that he mentioned in this book which was quite refreshing as most books that are in England tend to focus more on the south and neglect us poor northerners!

I did however, have one or two issues with this book. I feel like the book dragged on a little longer than it needed to and went into quite a lot of unnecessary detail, I felt like the book was more about Nathan than it was about the boy whose diary he’s found. I understand that the book is about the journey that Nathan takes because of this boy, but I just wanted more of the boy himself, maybe it was because I had expected the book to be primarily about the boy in the book that I felt a bit let down.

As I have said in previous posts I base my stars a lot on the time it takes me to read a book, if I literally can’t put a book down and find it hard to stop reading then it’s clearly an amazing book, but with this it took me quite a while to finish, almost a month infact, there was nothing there that gripped me too well. I was hooked at the start wanting to know about the boy and about the diary but that was solved in the first 100 pages or so and then I wasn’t wanting to find out the answers to some of the questions. I guess I was just hoping for something a bit different. Mainly the pace and too intense detail of this book let it down a little for me.

However, I did enjoy this book a lot and would recommend it to others, perhaps not if you don’t like too much detail and aren’t into geekery like me.

I couldn’t decide between giving this book four or three stars so I decided to meet halfway and gave it three and a half stars.

Let me know what you thought of this book if you have read it! Or recommend me something you think I’d enjoy.

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