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About a Boy Paperback – Unabridged, May 1, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 403 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Will Lightman is a Peter Pan for the 1990s. At 36, the terminally hip North Londoner is unmarried, hyper-concerned with his coolness quotient, and blithely living off his father's novelty-song royalties. Will sees himself as entirely lacking in hidden depths--and he's proud of it! The only trouble is, his friends are succumbing to responsibilities and children, and he's increasingly left out in the cold. How can someone brilliantly equipped for meaningless relationships ensure that he'll continue to meet beautiful Julie Christie-like women and ensure that they'll throw him over before things get too profound? A brief encounter with a single mother sets Will off on his new career, that of "serial nice guy." As far as he's concerned--and remember, concern isn't his strong suit--he's the perfect catch for the young mother on the go. After an interlude of sexual bliss, she'll realize that her child isn't ready for a man in their life and Will can ride off into the Highgate sunset, where more damsels apparently await. The only catch is that the best way to meet these women is at single-parent get-togethers. In one of Nick Hornby's many hilarious (and embarrassing) scenes, Will falls into some serious misrepresentation at SPAT ("Single Parents--Alone Together"), passing himself off as a bereft single dad: "There was, he thought, an emotional truth here somewhere, and he could see now that his role-playing had a previously unsuspected artistic element to it. He was acting, yes, but in the noblest, most profound sense of the word."

What interferes with Will's career arc, of course, is reality--in the shape of a 12-year-old boy who is in many ways his polar opposite. For Marcus, cool isn't even a possibility, let alone an issue. For starters, he's a victim at his new school. Things at home are pretty awful, too, since his musical therapist mother seems increasingly in need of therapy herself. All Marcus can do is cobble together information with a mixture of incomprehension, innocence, self-blame, and unfettered clear sight. As fans of Fever Pitch and High Fidelity already know, Hornby's insight into laddishness magically combines the serious and the hilarious. About a Boy continues his singular examination of masculine wish-fulfillment and fear. This time, though, the author lets women and children onto the playing field, forcing his feckless hero to leap over an entirely new--and entirely welcome--set of emotional hurdles. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

How cool is 36-year-old Will Lightman? Sub-zero, according to the questionnaire in his favorite men's magazine. Not only does he own more than five hip-hop albums (five points), he's also slept with a woman he didn't know very well within the last three months (another five points). Targeting single mothers, he joins a single parents' group under false pretenses and is soon drawn into the lives of depressed Fiona and her bright 12-year-old son, Marcus. Suddenly, his life is messy and complicated, and he's horrified when he realizes that he's now hanging with the type of people who gather around the piano to sincerely sing songs like "Both Sides Now" with their eyes closed. This is Hornby's second novel (following High Fidelity, 1995), and it's obvious he has an uncanny ability for homing in on wholly contemporary, often serious topics and serving them up in truly hilarious fashion. His skillful analysis of hipster angst has obviously struck a chord--this novel has been sold to filmmakers for more than $3 million. Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0965593894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965593892
  • ASIN: 1573227331
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (403 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I must admit, if it wasn't for the movie version of this book, I may never have read About a Boy. I knew the book existed, but was never compelled to read it. Then I saw the movie and realized what I was missing. And while the book and movie endings are different, About a Boy (the book) is nothing short of spectacular.
Will Freeman, quite possibly the world's most useless man, is jobless and responsibility-free -- and he likes it that way. Living off the royalties of his father's one hit song, Will finds his days full of lounging around, going to movies, and sitting in front of the TV watching Countdown. And while all this free time is at his disposal, Will has plenty of time to discover that single moms seem to be the most grateful for a date with him. Thus, Will puts a fool-proof plan into motion -- make up an imaginary son and join one of those single-parent support groups in an effort to meet women.
However, About a Boy is not all about Will meeting single mothers. It's... about a boy, Marcus, the 12-year-old son of one of the single mothers who comes into Will's life and turns it upside down. Suddenly Will finds himself, unwillingly, as some sort of mentor or father figure for Marcus, which totally distracts Will from his true purpose of being free from problems and responsibilities.
I loved About a Boy. The writing is authetic Nick Hornby, full of humor and sarcasm, but also there is a lively perceptiveness at work here that goes to show you one spontaneous decision can sometimes add meaning to your life. Prepare to laugh out loud with this one!
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Format: Paperback
Having enjoyed Hornby's more recent novels, HOW TO BE GOOD and A LONG WAY DOWN, I thought I'd start reading his earlier novels. Hornby has a gift for taking on big existential themes like despair and suicide and presenting them with a gentle but incisive humor that doesn't trivialize them. And he peoples his stories with a heterogenous mix of characters who seem determined to misunderstand one another but who eventually make their compromises with life without too much loss of dignity and who discover something greater than romantic love or sex--a deep sense of community, a profound and inclusive sense of rootedness in a shaky and transient world.

ABOUT A BOY centers on the relationship between a young boy, Marcus, and an unattached, cool bachelor, Will, who has joined the boy's mother's support group SPAT (Single Parents-Alone Together) as a way to meet grateful but unclingy women. It is clear from the start that Hornby could have named this novel ABOUT TWO BOYS and the novel has much to say about what it means for boys and perennial bachelors to grow up. It has much to do with taking risks, opening oneself up to other people (even to those you want nothing from), honoring real losses, and taking life on life's terms. As the wise child Marcus observes, two is not enough. He believes in "human pyramids." "I feel better and safer than before," he tells his late-to-the-game real father, "I was really scared because I didn't think two was enough, and now there aren't two anymore. There are loads. And you're better off that way."

A word to those who saw the movie: The book is really worth reading, so don't dismiss it if you didn't like the movie.
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Format: Paperback
"About A Boy" shows Nick Hornby's maturity in his writing. This novel is about the sweet relationship between a 12-year-old outcast and a 36-year-old playboy, both of whom narrate the story. Marcus, the boy, is tragically unhip and is horribly teased at his school. Will, the man, is living easily on royalties of his father's work without a care in the world. When their paths meet, the story is a rich coming-of-age for both, with its share of humorous and heartbreaking moments.
Will joins a single parents group in hopes of meeting a sector of women he didn't knew existed. Through a racked chain of events, he meets Marcus (and Marcus's mother). Marcus comes to enjoy Will's company, and when he discovers Will's little secret, he blackmails Will into helping him. Will can teach him how to be cool and tell him important stuff like who Kurt Cobain is. But when Marcus is confronted by his mother about the mysterious trips he takes after school, it looks like the jig is up--for both Marcus and Will.
Hornby wrote this book in the third person, and I believe that gave him a little more "room to breathe". He cane look at situations from more than one point of view and write with a more objective frame of mind. This makes "About A Boy" highly enjoyable and accessible to all audiences.
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Format: Paperback
About a Boy really gets to the heart of what it means to be a boy, and as we all know, boys come in all ages. The two main characters are Will and Marcus. Will is a professional at keeping disconnected. He lives off of the royalties from a song his father wrote. This has allowed him to live a carefree life of unemployment. However, there is a dark side to this. The song ruined his father's career, and slowly it's eating away at Will's soul as well, even though Will likes to pretend that he is happy with his life.
Enter Marcus. Marcus a 12 year old product of a broken home, changes Will's life forever. In the end, both boys find their own way of growing up.
If you're a woman and you have trouble understanding what men are thinking, this will show you the inner workings of a man's mind better than a thousand books on relationships. Be careful though, the truth might be a little scary for you. As for guys, you might realize some things about yourself that you have never thought about before.
For those who have seen the movie and are wondering if they should read the book or not, you should know that the ending of the book is completely different from the movie. You really should give it a read.
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