I’ve got some YA/adult fiction crossover for you today that is highly reminiscent of Emma Donoghue’s Room, in that it features a child imprisoned in a suburban home for reasons that aren’t exactly clear at the beginning. We received a copy of Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
A tale of two very different worlds, both shattered by the loss of loved ones. Tragic, comic and full of hope, thanks to a dog called Boy.
The kennel has been JC’s home ever since his new adoptive father locked him inside. For hours on end, JC sits and tells his dog Boy how he came to this country: his family; the orphanage and the Haitian earthquake that swept everything away.
When his adoptive mother Melanie rescues him, life starts to feel normal again. Until JC does something bad, something that upset his new father so much that he and Boy are banished to the kennel. But as his new father gets sicker, JC realizes they have to find a way out. And so begins a stunning story of a boy, a dog and their journey to freedom.
I’ve got two separate warring opinions on this book which is making it a little difficult to come to a cohesive overall feeling about it. Goodnight, Boy is narrated by JC, a teen boy who has been adopted from Haiti by an American couple. The story is revealed as JC talks to his dog, Boy, with whom JC is imprisoned in a kennel in the backyard of his suburban home. As the story unfolds, the reader finds out that JC’s adoptive mother, Melanie is missing, gone away or otherwise absent, for reasons that are also unclear, and that JC’s angry adoptive father is responsible for JC and Boy’s captivity.
If you are hoping, as you read, that the reasons behind JC’s imprisonment will be revealed in a timely fashion, you will be sorely disappointed. The reasons are not revealed until the very end of the story and by that time I was a bit baffled as to why Melanie thought leaving JC alone with her obviously abusive partner, who had expressed no liking for JC, was a good idea in the first place.
But I digress.
The main things I enjoyed about this book were the easily readable narrative voice and JC’s descriptions about his childhood in Haiti. The book has a conversational tone and it is easy to fall into the flow of the words and get caught up in the story, despite the constant interruptions in which JC takes issue with Boy’s doggish behaviour. Similarly, although often sad, JC’s recounting of his childhood I found to be absorbing and fascinating and revealed much about the factors that have moulded his personality.
The thing that I found difficult about the book was that it didn’t have the shock factor of a book like Room, which dealt with a similar situation, and I felt that without this, something was lacking. From the beginning of the story it was obvious that something seriously bad was going to happen – or possibly was already happening – but this didn’t pan out in the way I expected and I felt that the ending was a bit of an anti-climax. Not that I’m unhappy that there was a satisfactory ending for JC and Boy – far from it – but I was hoping for a bit more suspense and emotional turmoil than was delivered.
I think I would have preferred it had the book had a second story thread, narrated by Melanie or her husband, to flesh out some of the issues and heighten the suspense.
Overall I found this to be an interesting read with some original qualities, but it didn’t quite stand out as a stellar story for the reasons I’ve mentioned.
I am submitting this one for the Popsugar Reading Challenge in category #31: a book where the main character is a different ethnicity to you. You can check out my progress toward all my reading challenges here.
Until next time,