Thursday, December 16, 2010
REVIEW: Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman
This is the explosively page-turning new novel for teenagers from the author of the award-winning "Noughts and Crosses" sequence. You're about to receive your A-level results and then a future of university and journalism awaits. But the day they're due to arrive your old girlfriend Melanie turns up unexpectedly ...with a baby ...You assume Melanie's helping a friend, until she nips out to buy some essentials, leaving you literally holding the baby ...Malorie's dramatic new novel will keep you on the edge of your seat right to the final page.
I've been really excited about reading this book for awhile. I love Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses series and I adore this cover. I think the idea of teenage parenthood told from the father's point of view is a really wonderful concept and the new perspective challenges us all to take a harder look at the stereotypes, stigma and hard feelings that surround teenage pregnancy.
Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman is a wonderful story. Written well and realistically about a 17 year old boy, Dante, who is waiting for his A Level results. He expects to do well, having studied his butt off so that he can go to a good university, study journalism and really make something of himself. Dante has such high hopes for himself. And when the doorbell rings, what he's met with instead is his ex-girlfriend holding a baby. And it's his baby. Dante is convinced to look after the little girl just for a little while his ex-girlfriend runs off to get supplies .. and she never returns.
What follows for Dante are stages of acceptance. First there's denial as he quickly orders a paternity test online, then there's the anger. Why did it happen to him? What about all of Dante's hopes and dreams? Dante must make some difficult choices and really accept some hard truths. The idea of accepting and coming to care for baby Emma is a really gradual process for Dante. One that doesn't come easy to him.
And I have to mention how great Dante's family are in accepting Emma into the family right from the start. It may not happen with every single teenage parent, but I thought it balanced nicely with Dante's refusal at the start to believe Emma actually is his daughter. Adam, Dante's brother, just instantly loves Emma and is so great with her. And while Dante's father isn't overly thrilled that this is happened to his family, Dante's father still kicks himself into gear and wraps his head around the idea a lot quicker than Dante who really is struggling with this new addition to his life.
As I was reading Boys Don't Cry, and as I was being shown how differently Dante is being treated by other people, strangers and by his own friends, I was able to see more clearly how quick I am, and society is to blame and judge teenage parents. And not only is Dante being judged as a teenage father, but he's also a single father. And I don't think that single fathers, teenage or otherwise, are very understood or get the credit that they deserve. The assumptions and the surprise of people learning of Dante's single father status is something that I've had a lot of experience having been raised by a single father myself.
And then there's all the baby drama. And I know exactly what Dante struggled through with that. Getting enough rest, dealing with the nappies, the food mess, worrying about your child - getting hurt, staying warm, eating well - worrying about how to provide, how to be the best parent you can be. What Blackman has showed us with this novel is that it's difficult to be a parent at any age, as illustrated by Dante's own relationship with his father. Teenage parent or not, raising a child is never easy.
I wasn't aware before reading this story that Boys Don't Cry isn't just Dante's story. It's the story of his younger brother Adam as well. Chapters alternate between the two and towards the second half of the novel we are able to hear more of Adam's voice and the things that he is experiencing away from the arrival of Emma. It is heart-breaking and shocking but I don't want to spoil that aspect of the storyline for anyone.
I cannot recommend Boys Don't Cry enough. The idea of the novel, the writing, the decisions that are made, Dante's mental processes, the characters. I really did love everything about this book.