Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book Review: Best Boy

One of the nice things about belonging to a book club is that other people come to recognize your tastes and interests in books and can then offer up suggestions and recommendations of books they think you would enjoy. This book was just such a recommendation. I'm known for my interest in Asperger's syndrome and books with characters dealing with Asperger's. Eli Gottlieb's book, Best Boy, features a character dealing with autism in an institutional community.

Todd Aaron is one of the oldest residents at the Payton Living Center for individuals with developmental disabilities. He loves reading from the Encyclopedia Brittanica. After being in the institution for forty years, he is definitely used to his accommodations, but Todd is dealing with some recent changes and desperately wants to return home. His parents are dead, but he wants to return to see his childhood home and visit his younger brother, Nate.

Todd's new roommate, Tommy Doon, is aggressive in his attempts to elicit an outburst from Todd. Plus, there is a new staff member, Mike Hinton, who reminds Todd too much of his abusive deceased father. When a one-eyed resident, Martene, encourages Todd to stop taking his medicines, Todd begins to hatch a plan to burst free from the chains that bind him.

Although I felt the first person narration accurately captured the essence of an autistic individual, I don't think it deserved the comparisons it received on Amazon with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. While Best Boy was interesting, its plot wasn't nearly as compelling as The Curious Incident and the character didn't spring to life as vividly. I was a bit worried the story line was going to veer off into something sexual when Todd begins to explain his attraction to Martene, but the author keeps it fairly PG-rated.

My favorite character of all, wasn't the main character, but rather, a staff member at the institution named Raykene. Raykene displays such tenderness and love toward Todd and offers up wisdom and compassion. She, along with Todd's mother, demonstrate the love developmentally disabled individuals long for and deserve. Through Raykene's friendship and Todd's mother's encouraging words, Todd is able to face the difficulties in his life and find redemption.

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