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Golden Boy: Book summary and reviews of Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

Golden Boy
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  • Published in USA  May 2013
    352 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

From twenty-five-year-old literary rising star Abigail Tarttelin comes an unforgettable novel about a boy, a secret, and the single traumatizing event that sends his seemingly charmed life into tailspin.

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?

Told in first person narratives alternating between Max, Daniel, Karen, Sylvie, Steve, and Archie, the physician who attempts to guide Max through this pivotal moment in his life, Golden Boy is at once a riveting novel of a family in crisis, a fascinating exploration of identity, and a coming-of-age story like no other.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Never overly clinical, this is not a case study, but rather, at its heart, a warmly human coming-of-age story, thanks to the fact that Max is such an appealing character. And so his desperate search for identity is gripping, emotionally engaging, and genuinely unforgettable, as, indeed, is this accomplished first novel." - Booklist

"[An] intense and fearless U.S. debut from English writer Tarttelin." - Publishers Weekly

"Tartellin's writing is heavy on emotions and introspection but not especially incisive, relying instead on movement among the one-dimensional characters to sustain the simple plot. This lengthy coming-of-age story spliced with "issues" trades on empathy rather than strong storytelling and seems pitched at a younger readership." - Kirkus

"Abigail Tarttelin is a fearless writer. In Golden Boy, she balances a harrowing coming of age with a deeply compassionate portrait of a family in crisis, and the result is sometimes brutal, often tender, and always compelling. This is a gripping and fully-realized novel." - Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Lola Quartet

"Golden Boy is at once meditative and swift, a coming-of-age tale about the difficulties of growing up amid shame and secrets and success. Abigail Tarttelin writes with a sharp-eyed grace in this fascinating, heartfelt gem of a novel." - Dean Bakopoulos, author of My American Unhappiness

"Golden Boy is terrific. A poignant, brave and important book." - S.J. Watson, author of Before I Go To Sleep

"Gritty yet humane, startlingly modern yet utterly timeless, Golden Boy hits all the deepest, biggest novelistic notes - family, identity, tragedy and hope - without the merest hint of strain. In Abigail Tarttelin's American debut, she has already proven herself to be a writer of extraordinary empathy and incredible wisdom... and she makes it look so easy. Tarttelin is the real deal." - Rachel Shukert, author of Starstruck and Everything Is Going To Be Great

"Gripping and beautifully-written, Abigail Tarttelin's Golden Boy is a courageous and profound exploration of social and sexual identity and its world of manifold complexities and challenges." - Sahar Delijani, author of Children of the Jacaranda Tree

The information about Golden Boy shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Gail I. (Delray Beach, FL)

Timely Twist on Adolescent Angst
So many novels have been written about adolescence angst and family relationships, but Golden Boy puts a timely twist on this genre. Like most teenagers, Max feels different. However, his difference is something that is kept secret due to societal taboos.

Having read the book Middlesex which is also about someone who finds out they are intersexed, I found Golden Boy to be more engaging and readable for both young adults and adults of any age. It is one book you don't want to put down as you become involved in the secrets and lies of the intricate family unit Max is a part of. I am honored to have had the opportunity to read such an interesting and thought provoking book prior to publication thanks to Bookbrowse. I highly recommend it.

Susan P. (Boston, MA)

Golden Boy
Written in the first person by 6 narrators in alternating chapters, this novel tells the story of an intersex 16-year-old boy who lives in an Oxford suburb. His life, which is very comfortable, is shattered by someone close to him. His life appears to be golden to people who are not dear to him but everything starts to break apart and it doesn't help that his dad (who is decent) is running for MP. The most well-done aspect is the narrators sound true to the characters; the little brother especially. Extremely appealing to people who like stories about families, gender issues, and teenagers (good and bad). Sounds far fetched but it's in fact very compelling and hard to put down.

Laura G. (Buffalo, NY)

An Eye Opening Read
I wasn't sure how comfortable I would be reading this book because of its subject matter. I was right. It wasn't always comfortable, but that was the genius of it. This young author has done an amazing job conveying the feelings of each character as he or she deals with the situation presented. No matter whom you are, and what your experiences have been, this book will give you a lot to think about. I'm very glad I read it.

Alexandra S. (Chicago, IL)

Golden Boy is Gold
I sat down on Saturday morning to read a few chapters and realized that I hadn't stopped for four hours. Golden Boy is a gut-wrenching novel about an Intersex boy coming to terms with who he is after an extremely traumatic event.

Tarttelin weaves a beautiful narrative of a seemingly perfect family that has been hiding a deep, dark secret and how that secret is forced into daylight after their intersex son, Max, is raped by a close friend.

Golden Boy is told through first person narratives, so we as the reader see into the minds of each of the characters. We feel Max's pain and shame, we understand why his parent's chose to hide the problem, why everyone in the Walker family is constantly seeking perfection. The novel is gut-wrenching and at times you want to put it down, I found myself crying on several occasions, you just can't stand to feel the pain these characters are feeling. But it is so beautifully written and compelling that you can't walk away.

My one criticism is of the voice of Daniel. While I understood why Tarttelin wanted to bring another voice into the book, one who wasn't completely entrenched in the secrets, I felt as though Daniel's character was a little off-putting. Initially when I began the book, I thought that he was somewhere on the spectrum of autism, I realized that he was just emotionally immature with some behavioral issues. Max's character needed a brother, or at least someone that he could just sit with an be, but at times I thought Daniel's character didn't fit.

I loved this novel and would recommend it to anyone looking for a great book.

Linda D. (Williamsburg, VA)

A Must Read!
Golden Boy is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I sat down intending to read a few chapters and found myself putting everything else off until I finished the book. The story is about a family that has hidden the fact their child is intersex and has to deal with his and their own feelings regarding this as well as their fear of being exposed as "imperfect" when the boy is abused by an old friend. The story is told by alternating viewpoints of each of the characters which, along with the subject itself, drives the readers' curiosity to learn more about both the characters and their story. The book addresses many issues including our need to project perfection, family secrets and communication, personal identity and acceptance, and sexuality and it is hard to do it justice in a brief summary. Suffice it to say that I found the story to be riveting and the characters to be realistic and ones that I really cared about. The author does an extraordinary job dealing with a serious subject with skill and empathy and doing so in a manner that is both thought provoking and entertaining. This is a book that should not be missed and I cannot wait to see what this young author creates next

Mary J. (La Quinta, CA)

Swept Away!
I received The Golden Boy this past Thursday and finished it yesterday morning! This may be a debut book but Abigail Tarttelin can certainly weave a tale. I could not put it down. The story line is one I have never heard of but she nails it. This is an absolute must read!

...59 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Abigail Tarttelin Author Biography

Abigail Tarttelin is a writer, an actress, and the book editor for Phoenix magazine in the UK. Her novel, Golden Boy, received a 2014 Alex Award and was a finalist for the 2014 Lambda Literary Award. She lives in London.

Link to Abigail Tarttelin's Website

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