Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

A Review of A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey

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A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey

Teddy is a troublesome boy according to the principal of his school as well as his mother’s “meathead” boyfriend, the used car salesman who doesn't get along with Teddy in the least. It’s not hard to see where Teddy’s anger comes from. He’s alone in the world. Abandoned by his father, who he used to be close to, cast off by his mother in preference for her boyfriend, and lobbed into St. Iggy’s, a boys’ school run by Catholic Brothers who use religion as a weapon. Teddy finds a best friend in Tim Cooper, another boy who also has been abandoned by his mother’s poor choices. It seems Teddy and Tim will be all right though as they make plans to run away together. But when Father Prince comes in the night and calls Tim out of bed, everything changes.

Yeah, it’s one of those Catholic school books, and I was worried when I picked it up that it would be dark and depressing the whole way through but it wasn't. Not at all. Teddy and Tim’s friendship with each other as well as with the school janitor, Rozey, brought light not only to the plot but to the characters themselves. The us against them antics of the boys, especially the atheists, are particularly gratifying. I loved it when one of the boys calls upon his lawyer uncle to get them out of church service, and another scene when Teddy talks about how they can get an easily distracted teacher to talk about travel instead of the lesson. It’s totally relatable to any teen who has sat through a boring class. And while it’s true there is brutality throughout the book, there is also solidarity which shows what this book is really about — friendship, trust, and real devotion.

This book stuck with me long after I put it down. The descriptions are great. I felt the cold, the cramp, the darkness, the thrill. I loved the fishing trip Teddy and Tim take with Rozey – one of the only sane adults in St. Iggy’s. I could feel every emotion and every chilled breath. The dialogue is amazing too. There’s a subtleness in it, a sparseness, that conveys so much more than only what is said. Paul Vasey is a skilled writer and A Troublesome Boy, published by House of Anansi, is definitely worth the read for older teens as well as adults.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Kim Firmston

Kim Firmston is a writer and creative writing instructor in Calgary. Her teen novels Schizo and Hook Up were Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Bet Selections. Her short story "Life Before War" was shortlisted for the 2008 CBC Literary Awards. Her most recent novel for teens is Touch, about a teenage hacker with a troubled family life.

Go to Kim Firmston’s Author Page