Narrated by a twelve-year old boy, One of the Boys is the story of a shattered family. Emotional and absolutely riveting, Daniel Magariel’s debut novel immerses you into the mind of a child who simply wants to join his father and older brother on their plan of starting a new life away from their mother. There’s nothing more important for our unnamed narrator than to be one of the boys. Winning the war was only the first step to starting over in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Things however are not what they seem when the psychological and physical abuse by the father are about to become a routine ordeal for these children. The story presents us the evolution of two kids as they try to adapt to their new situation, overcome the new challenges of a motherless life and please a father who’s habits become much more evident and destructive. Buddy-read with Trang, One of the Boys has become one of those short yet mesmerizing books of the year. With an ending that had us in awe, we can definitely say that this novel is one that should be read with caution.
If there’s one thing you learn in life it’s that children rhymes with innocence no matter what. Their young age offers them the opportunity to see life without the corrupted lens of experience. Their action speaks true to their heart and everything they do either comes from trial and error, from what they see or from what they are told to do. It’s this last element that is the most dangerous one as it obliges children to follow a leader and the ability to protest does not come without a fight. One of the Boys does an impeccable job in showing us the darker side of a coming of age story of kids who are trying hard to please their father and perpetuate the hate towards a mother forged by their father. Is the hate justified? It’s as they grow up with their father that they slowly wonder about their past, their actions and the harsh words that were once spoken deliberately towards their mother. It’s during these moments where they ponder their current condition and the life they want to have that things become a lot more contentious for each child and for the dynamic within the family. Antagonizing the mother and showing manipulative behavior are some of the most disturbing elements you find in Daniel Magariel’s debut novel. While the father struggles to remain coherent with himself, his desire to offer his children a new and beautiful life struggles to take life. His words say one thing and his actions say another.
“As impressive as Room and Gone Girl, the dynamic between the characters is magnificent. A manipulative father turns the mother into the Evil Queen through the eyes of the children in order to have them on his side. Both children get influenced by the father, with the youngest never really questioning the actions and the eldest who starts to see something is wrong. Both are still united by the same fear: their father. Childhood is a fragile and plastic stage, and everything the father makes them endure shapes their behavior, but also their way of thinking. It is a journey between loyalty and betrayal, between violence and pardon.”
— Trang, Co-blogger
This heart-breaking story isn’t only filled with darkness. Even if around every corner something depressingly heartbreaking occurs, it is the glimpse into the little rays of hope that shines through the events that has us holding on to this book tight throughout the ruthless moments. The optimism that can emanate through these characters and that get vulgarized through the words of children make us want to believe that change is possible and good things will happen if they continue to believe in their father’s words. That’s where the innocence of a twelve-year-old child kicks in. This inability to see between the lines and to fight back against their father, the only adult who they can turn to, become an anchor to a life filled with no steps forward, and plenty of steps backward. Not having a mother figure does do incredible damage when the father is incapable of showing proper parental skills. It’s even more tragic when you see these children show immense courage during times where you’d imagine anyone would break and crumble. It’s even more harrowing when you see the kids compensate for the mistakes and lack of presence of the father by taking care of his business and acknowledge the phases he goes through in a routinely manner. There are times where you’ll want to shove this book deep inside your closet and never find out if things will get better. However, One of the Boys is a story that you’ll want to gulp in a single shot. It’s only later that you’ll find yourself regretting doing so as the awful and haunting events that happen throughout the book become far too demoralizing.
There’s an emotional punch to every sentence in this book. There’s nothing truly complex in the writing as you’d wish when your narrator is a twelve-year-old, but there was still something certainly unusually powerful in the style. At times I found myself amazed by the writing to the point that I felt tethered to the story told and just couldn’t stop hurrying up for more details and progress. However, there also came moments where it hit me that the narrator had a voice that didn’t feel young, but rather lyrical, poetic and adult. This honestly took away the narrator’s ability to completely immerse me in the story, even if there were good chunks of the book where I was absorbed by the writing style and couldn’t believe what was being told. If Daniel Magariel had written it with a little more looseness in the vocabulary and the structure, I would’ve probably ended up tearing up at the ending that was delivered. In fact, One of the Boys has a rather open ending that leaves the readers the choice to decide what really happened. I absolutely loved the epilogue as well, as it adds elements to ponder in regards to the ending that was conveyed.
“I believe that the writing style is more than perfect: simple, captivating and filled with emotion. But it does not capture the style of a twelve-year-old narrator. Having read a lot of books with a child’s voice as a narrator, I can confirm that there’s a certain innocence mixed with a unique curiosity that an adult narrator does not possess.”
— Trang, Co-blogger
One of the Boys is not an easy read. It is a beautiful yet horrifying story of abuse and growth. With a father who turned his children against their mother to get custody over them, you quickly enter a fictional world filled with promises and lies. Slowly getting the fuller picture, the children start to see the true face of a father who tries miserably to hide his weaknesses and his despicable habits. Set in a dysfunctional family, the story brings to light the darkness that two children try to fight in their own innocent, yet courageous ways. It’s their coping mechanisms and their attitudes in front of the events that unfold that makes this story so devastating. Daniel Magariel’s debut novel is a short, yet incredibly compelling prose that warrants your attention. However, tread lightly. It is a novel filled with smoke and mirrors that aren’t easily discernible through the eyes of children. Watching these children grow under such conditions of abuse and insecurity can be quite the ride.
THANK YOU TO SIMON & SCHUSTER CANADA FOR SENDING ME AN ADVANCE COPY FOR REVIEW!
Are you interested in One of the Boys?
How about you read this book for yourself!
You can purchase your copy @Amazon Canada or @Chapters Indigo now!
Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comment section below and follow us so you don’t miss anymore of our reviews!
MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆/