by Paul Thaler


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Bronxland 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
VanessaBlando More than 1 year ago
Bronxland written by Paul Thaler would be categorized as a “coming-of-age” novel written in a style that is partially autobiographical while also allowing the reader to experience the life of a young boy growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s through his eyes. The novel is first introduced with the main character, Paul Wolfenthal, describing the neighborhood bully who happens to live not to far from his apartment on Tremont Avenue. Tommy Branigan was one of the first few characters who first brought along the many tribulations that Paul was to soon encounter. As the novel develops, the reader continues to follow the life of Paul Wolfenthal during the 1960s with aid of the author’s detailed descriptions of the time period of which the novel takes place by introducing his admiration of the president of the time, John F. Kennedy. JFK was one of the many heroes Paul had great admiration for that allowed him to get away from the other issues that bombarded his life. However, life is not as care-free where we can just escape to a world where we imagine a life with our heroes and Paul perfectly demonstrates this for the reader. After coming back to reality, we learn more about how Paul discovers who he really is and why he eventually grows up to become the person he later turns out to be. From his first crush on his teacher, Miss Bonnet, to his first love, Dee-Dee, who later leaves him for another boy, to the disappearance of his next door neighbor, Benji Shapiro, to the murder of his greatest hero, President John. F. Kennedy. The author, Paul Thaler, does not fail to describe every one of the protagonist’s experiences in a way that the reader can relate by not censoring anything. The vulgarity of the words used, the intimate thoughts each character had, and the intensity of an experience no matter what it might be allows the reader to connect. However, despite all the positives the novel seems to project, the novel does have a minimal negative aspect where for some reason each character who does bad to the main character all some how have their own “bad ending” and Paul Wolfenthal just seems to “dodge the bullet” almost every time. The novel never failed to interest me with every page. Each page had caught my eye because it had its own humor or its own specific tone that somehow allowed me to just connect or empathize with the narrator. In addition, the narrator incorporates outside sources that the reader would actually know such as Houdini, President John F. Kennedy, the novel The Catcher in the Rye, and even the specific names of the streets or boroughs that were mentioned allow the reader to relate and connect. Specifically, the melancholic sections involving the disappearance of Benji Shapiro and the death of President JFK had led me to empathize with every character involved in the scenes. Knowing that today’s time is no different from the time in 1960s where the world is a very dangerous place no matter where you go. This novel would be a great read for almost anyone. Those who did live during the 60s and would, for a small amount of time, escape the harsh reality of life and just reminiscence of the old times, no matter how good or bad the times were. The novel would also be a great read for those who did not even live during the time, for just from reading the novel the reader can vividly live through the 60s in the Bronx from the eyes of a young boy named Paul Wolfenthal who started out in his apartment on Tremont Avenue.
LedeanDaley More than 1 year ago
This compelling coming-of-age story follows 13-year-old Paul Wolfenthal as he navigates through life in The Bronx during the 60’s. Narrated in a heartfelt and humorous tone it details the ups and downs of Paul’s childhood living in a changing society. Dealing with bullies, finding “heroes”, first love and the angst of growing up is something most children experience regardless of the time, which is evident in Paul Thaler’s Bronxland. Paul Thaler was able to turn every day to day tale of young Paul Wolfenthal’s life into a gripping and intriguing story. He intricately combines both fiction and nonfiction. Thaler incorporates elements of his childhood, although somewhat embellished, with historical events of the 60’s.Through his narrative storytelling laced with imagery, I was transported into the Paul Wolfenthal’s life, drinking malteds in Mel’s candy shop and attending school at Macombs JHS 82. This novel is easy to enjoy and difficult to put down. I would recommend Bronxland to anyone looking for a nostalgic and heartfelt read.
tylercoyoc More than 1 year ago
Bronxland, a novel though some may argue it’s an “autobiographical” book, written by Paul Thaler, tells the tale of a typical teenage boy who lives a life that is anything but typical. The main character, Paul Wolfenthal, tells the story of his own life from his unique point of view as a Jewish teen living in the Bronx dealing with puberty, the neighborhood bully, crushes on his math teacher and the voices in his head. He gets by with a little help from his best friend Sammy who is with him every step of the way throughout all these antics and scenarios. Although, the story takes place in the 60’s, being a teen reading this book I found myself actively relating to Paul throughout the book and empathized with him on various occasions. The book was something I would recommend to others due to the simple fact that I enjoyed reading it. I found myself maintaining interest while reading because the plot kept the reader involved and excited with new dilemmas or obstacles in every chapter. Bronxland had the power to make me feel happy, feel sad, feel angry and just all around feel something, which I find commendable on the author’s part. I think the sole fact that a fiction book concentrated on a young teenage boy named Paul who lives in the 60’s and struggles with hormones and bullies having the ability to make me feel all these emotions, makes Bronxland a book worth reading.
Madison-Schimek More than 1 year ago
Paul Wolfenthal may seem like an ordinary 13-year-old boy, but this coming-of-age tale is anything but standard. The book follows Paul as he attempts to navigate a variety of obstacles associated with growing up in the Bronx in the sixties as well as just growing up in general. He must learn to deal with a bully at school named Tommy Branigan, whose harassment climaxes in a fist fight in the street. Love is also explored when Paul falls at first sight for his math teacher, pitching him into a whirlwind of teenage emotions, and again when he begins dating his first girlfriend Dee Dee O’Hara. His first day of junior high school is plagued by the timeless dread of choosing a seat in class, which I found to be both humorous and relatable. He experiences all of these things and more with his best friend Sammy by his side. These things seem average, but Paul also encounters things that are not. He has a propensity for visiting the dead, including Harry Houdini, whose death and life intrigue him. Demons also seem to surround his neighborhood when a young boy named Benjamin Shapiro is kidnapped and Paul is exposed to the stark reality that his beloved Bronxland may be harboring evil that he never could have imagined. Discrimination is also explored when Paul is subjected to hearing the racist comments of a boy named Plotz in his class. Words become actions when Plotz frames Paul’s African American friend, Joe Bailey, for the theft of Paul’s clarinet, creating a chain of events that neither boy survives unscathed. However, the reader is also given the opportunity to grow with the main character, learning his secrets, delving into his thoughts and witnessing how change affects his life. I felt excitement throughout the description of Paul meeting John F. Kennedy and horror when the boy must learn that his hero has been assassinated. I found myself willing JFK to live as Paul watched the screen for news of the president’s condition, regardless of knowing the outcome. The book is also a lens into life in the Bronx in the sixties, which I found interesting to explore. From his idolization of the Yankees, to games of stoopball with the neighborhood kids and egg creams at a local candy store, the reader is invited into the Bronx. They are given the opportunity to pull up a seat and appreciate the culture and feel of a time and place that is anything but fiction. One may make the mistake of thinking that only those born in this era will have an appreciation for reading this story. However, the powerful narration, dynamic characters and exploration of various themes make this a must read. I found myself able to relate to his struggles of navigating school and relationships despite not being born in the same generation. The narration is at times wistful and as a reader you find yourself building an appreciation for growing up on these streets and the paths each character takes. I found myself eagerly turning the pages to discover what Paul would face next and the result was never a disappointment. The acknowledgements indicate that though the book is fiction some parts are not. Paul Thaler does a commendable job of incorporating his own voice and experiences into a unique coming-of-age tale that I would recommend to anyone searching for a good read. I enjoyed reading Bronxland, and I found myself attached to the characters and a place that has changed with time but will always be brought back to life within the pages of this book.