Review:Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin


Golden Boy
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Genre: Drama
Source:

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world. They are even better at keeping them from each other.

Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he’s the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He’s even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max’s mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the façade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the façade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband, Steve, has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.

The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his 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? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he’s starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him—desire him— once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?

Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he’s the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He’s even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max’s mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the façade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the façade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband, Steve, has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.
The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his 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? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he’s starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him—desire him— once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?

The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his 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? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he’s starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him—desire him— once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?



My Thoughts:

On the outside, the Walker family is pretty normal. Karen and Steve, mom and dad, are both successful in their careers; he is chief crown prosecutor, and she is a criminal prosecutor. They have both worked hard to get where they are and now Steve has hopes of becoming a member of parliament.

Max, the first born son appears perfect. Popular, with a good group of friends, good grades, on the high school football team and a bright future. Max doesn’t get into fights, drink or do drugs, never whines, or complains, and always does what is expected of him. Daniel, the Walker’s second son is always thinking. He picks up on things you wouldn’t expect a 9 and 4/5 age child to catch. Sometimes, he understands and sometimes he doesn’t. This leads to anger and behavior problems. Daniel doesn’t understand why it’s not ok to speak your mind; like calling your teacher a duck if she looks like one. Why is that not ok?

Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to calls to mom and being sent home and it’s only more frustrating for Daniel that his brother Max is perfect.

But Max isn’t perfect. Max is intersex. Max has both girl parts and boy parts. And while his parents have never let Max feel any less perfect and loved, they don’t talk about it either. Max feels like it is the dirty little secret that could ruin everything for his family if it got out.

So while Max is dealing with normal teenage anxieties, discovering his identity, and peer pressure, now on top of that he worries about even being able to have a normal, healthy relationship with a girl, operations to “correct the mutations” and why, if he was born this way, does he have to change.

Then, as if that isn’t enough, the “cousin” Max grew up with, that one family friend who is so close they shared everything as kids included beds on sleepovers, violates his trust and destroys his self-confidence with one very intense act.
Hunter’s mom, Leah, is best friends with Max’s mom. The families have often gone on vacation together and shared holidays at one another’s houses. Max and Hunter have grown up as cousins, sharing everything from toys to beds. But all that changes, after one fateful night; the results of which send the Walker family hurtling down a path that will irrevocably change their lives forever.
When I was first given Golden Boy, I was hesitant as topics of sexuality can be sensitive. I am glad that I gave it the chance though. The first chapters, as with any book, are character introductions and as I went through them, I realized the complexity of the characters and the plot line itself. I found each character to be very well developed, with lots of depth and their own unique personalities. Abigail Tarttelin is very talented at making her characters come to life.

My favorite character would have to be Sylvie. Not one to change to fit in, Sylvie lives her way; she won’t be led by peer pressure. I just knew that if Max could trust her enough, she would be the one to accept his differences. She is quirky and fun, yet moody and dark at times; the exact girl you would never expect golden boy Max to even look twice at.

The storyline was amazing right from the beginning. I found myself drawn in very quickly, feeling the pain, anger, and hurt that the family went through. At times, I found it very intense; other times the sweet tenderness of teenage romance made my heart skip a beat. The pace is just right, but the land mines that mark the plot are mind-blowing. Just when you think the story can’t get any better, there is an unexpected twist to keep you on your toes, and turning the page to see how each character deals with the fallout.

I really, really enjoyed Golden Boy; a very intense family drama that I think will appeal to both adults and teens. I will definitely be finding Abigail Tarttelin’s first book Flick and watching for any future books she gives us.
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