World of Normal Boys
In his stunning debut novel, The World Of Normal Boys, K.M. Soehnlein captures the spirit of a generation and an era, embodied in the haunting, unstoppable voice of thirteen-year-old Robin MacKenzie, a modern-day Holden Caulfield, whose struggle for a place in the world is as ferocious as it is real.
The time is the late 1970s—an age of gas shortages, head shops, and Saturday Night Fever. The place, suburban New Jersey. At a time when the teenagers around him are coming of age, Robin MacKenzie is coming undone. While "normal boys" are into cars, sports, and bullying their classmates, Robin enjoys day trips to New York City with his elegant mother, spinning fantastic tales for her amusement in an intimate ritual he has come to love. He dutifully plays the role of the good son for his meat-and-potatoes father, even as his own mind is a jumble of sexual confusion and painful self-doubt. But everything changes in one, horrifying instant when a tragic accident wakes his family from their middle-American dream and plunges them into a spiral of slow destruction.
As his family falls apart day by day, Robin finds himself pulling away from the unquestioned, unexamined life that has been carefully laid out for him. Small acts of rebellion lead to larger questions of what it means to stand on his own. Falling into a fevered triangle with two other outcasts, Todd Spicer and Scott Schatz, Robin embarks on an explosive odyssey of sexual self-discovery that will take him beyond the spring-green lawns of suburbia, beyond the fraying fabric barely holding together his quickly unraveling family, and into a complex future, beyond the world of normal boys.
In The World Of Normal Boys, K.M. Soehnlein has created a dazzling gem of a debut novel in the tradition of Ordinary People and A Boy's Own Story, one that sparkles with raw honesty, poetic beauty, wry insight, and a rare richness of emotion that reverberates long after the last page is read. It is a story about growing up and falling apart, of rebellion and acceptance, of unspoken lives and irreversible choices that are made.
Late 1970s New Jersey is the backdrop for this gay coming-of-age novel by newcomer Soehnlein. As he starts his freshman year in high school in the fall of 1978, 13-year-old Robin MacKenzie is baffled by "normal boys" and men. Why, he wonders, do his salesman father, Clark, and his younger brother, Jackson, his crude uncle Stan and his oafish cousin Larry insult and torment other people, like Robin's 7th-grade sister Ruby, his chronically dissatisfied mother, Dorothy, and his new "burnout" friend, Scott Schatz? Robin already feels different because he has a collection of Broadway cast albums and helps his mother "accessorize" her clothing. Now the gulf between him and "normal" boys is widening: he is beginning to fantasize sexually not about girls but about other boys. Soehnlein depicts Robin's physical awakening with sensitivity, and also illuminates his struggles with new moral dilemmas, as he is forced to decide what to tell the adults about Jackson's fall from a playground slide, how to handle the mixed signals that he's getting from Todd Spicer, the older boy next door, and what to do about Scott's troubles with his abusive father. The third-person present-tense narrative presents an amusingly detailed and largely accurate picture of life in the Jersey 'burbs. Although marred a bit by rather facile psychologizing, Robin's story is ultimately a moving romance. That romance is not that of a boy with another boy (or man)--the clinical depictions of Robin's various sexual experiences are not particularly moving--but of a boy with a city: the New York where Robin lived as a small child; the New York he visits with his mother on their "City Days" throughout his childhood; the New York that remains, despite an ugly walk on its wild side, the city of Robin's dreams. Author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|