The World of Normal Boys: A Novel

( 14 )

Overview

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,...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.|
Jeremy Quittner
Even if you're not a child of the 70's, The World of Normal Boys will force you to relive the most painful moments of your adolescence. In the process you'll reaffirm your decision to be who you are now.
Advocate
Martin Wilson
…Soehnlein's…characters are so engaging and his observations so acute, this potentially tired story is actually a welcome addition to the canon. It is also compulsively readable.
Lambda Book Report
Matthew Flamm
Soehnlein makes the familiar strange... this is a rich and unflinching book.
New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781575666617
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 8/28/2001
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 799,560
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 8.86 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(8)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2007

    More than touching!

    Was hard to put this one down. Very touching story and even after I was done I wanted to pick it up and read it again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2006

    POS

    this was recomended to me by a friend. don't bother, it's a gay mans chick flick

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2005

    A GREAT GAY AND LESBIAN NOVEL

    This is the first gay fiction book ive ever read,and it was so good.Its a coming of age story about a confused boy who finally comes to terms with being gay.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2003

    great!

    It helped me understand life as a highschool student at very confusing times.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2003

    Sub-Normal

    I don't understand all these accolades. This is a competently written book. But I didn't find any great passages or literary milestones in it. In fact, the narration was a bit prissy and over-wrought, and the whole little brother accident reminded me of a drawn-out melodramatic After-School Special.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2003

    Fabulous

    It was if the author pulled thoughts and situations straight out of my head. In many cases I thought to myself, "my God, that's exactly how I felt when I was 13/14!" It was an amazing read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2002

    Excellent

    A wonderful read. Half way through, I exclaimed out loud: "This is my life! These are my thoughts, these are some of my actions, these are even some of my circumstances." Magnificant!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2002

    My Favortie EVER!!!!!

    A good book for any closet case. also good for someone who wants to understand what life is like for a gay teenager i love this Book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2002

    a story of a gay kid through sorrow, love, and horniness. j/k

    i read this book twice i loved it. i think the best part is when scott kisses robin cause it was kinda romantic and spontanious. the novel was romantic but it was truely sad to when jackson died my heart sank. i loved the whole book i don't think i have a favorite chapter.i can't wait for the next book. if u have any comments please e-mail me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2002

    A must read book

    This is one well written, thought out book. Took me back a bit to my own junior/high school years, and all the things I put myself and my own parents through. The author takes you on a mind bender of a trip. Can make you laugh, to your lip quivering.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2001

    This Book is So Wonderful

    This book helps to see into the mind of a 14 year old boy and helps you to understand it. It really helped me to understand my homosexual friends thoughts and actions. At least on a superficial level. This book is a must read for any open-minded person who doesnot want to stay in narrow world filled with misunderstandings. So Great!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2001

    who we were makes up who we are

    To say that this was simply nostalgic would be to misrepresent this book. There is a great truth interwoven in this book: coming out, growing up, self-doubt, self-awareness, the impact of the world. All of these themes are honestly explored through the eyes of a fourteen year old. I read it in a day, but it will occupy my thoughts for quite some time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2001

    The Best Book Ever

    I hate reading. But this book is the most intriguing book I've ever read. I stayed up all night finishing it, never able to put it down. Robin's feelings and thoughts are realistic and familiar. This book is worth 200 stars, if possible.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2000

    Nostalgic and Incredible

    This book reminded me what it was like in Highschool. It drew me in and wouldn't let go until I finished. I cannot wait until the next book by this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2000

    Great new writer

    Once in a while I discover a writer whose work makes me ready for the next book the second I close the first one. K.M. Soehnlein is such an author. His debut novel about an adolescent's coming of age in the late 1970s is so precise, so witty, so hilarious and moving and sad and uplifting all at once, that I suspect we'll be seeing a lot more from this guy. I have one word for K.M. Soehnlein: Hurry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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