The Every Boy

The Every Boy

by Dana Adam Shapiro


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In this addictive and highly original debut novel a fifteen-year-old boy dies mysteriously, leaving behind a secret ledger filled with his darkly comic confessions. Whether fantasizing about being a minority, breaking into his neighbors’ homes, or gunning down an exotic bird, Henry Every’s wayward quest for betterment sometimes bordered on the criminal. Alone now in their suburban house, his father pores over the ledger in a final attempt to connect with the boy he never really knew—and, more urgently, to figure out how he died. As Harlan Every learns the truth about his son’s many misadventures and transgressions, he also discovers the part he unwittingly played in Henry’s tragic death and the real reason his wife walked out years ago. The story grows into two parallel love stories—one past, one present—with drastically different outcomes.

Witty and wise, The Every Boy is a page-turning mystery, a love story, an exploration of what it means to be a family, and a one-of-a kind celebration of human individuality.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618773404
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 02/28/2007
Pages: 222
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.51(d)

About the Author

DANA ADAM SHAPIRO produced and co-directed Murderball, the Academy Award nominated documentary about quadriplegic rugby players. Shapiro is a founder of ICON Magazine, a former senior editor at SPIN, and a contributor to the New York Times Magazine and other publications. With Plan B Entertainment, he is set to write and direct a movie based on his novel, The Every Boy.

Read an Excerpt


For his fifth birthday Henry got two presents that would come to shape his soul. From Dad, a bean-stuffed cow that went moo when squeezed. Henry called it Moo. From Mom he got an inner voice, a grand and booming yes man for each of his stooped shoulders. Gift-wrapped in silver, Great Ovations was a forty-five-minute record filled with nothing but applause from “major moments” of the twentieth century. There was no context for the claps—it could have been a Puccini encore, Willie Mays on the fly in center field, hails for the Führer in Berlin. What difference did it make? The message never muddled, and while Dad thought it was coddling and hollow and bad for a growing boy’s spine, Henry fell asleep to it every night for three years. He even carried a dubbed cassette in his knapsack just in case he needed exaltation on the go.
Dad found this out just before Henry’s funeral, when he was first presented with the ledger his son had secretly kept since he was ten on over 2,600 sheets of loose-leaf graph paper. (Only girls kept diaries, Henry had been told.) Colorcoded to reflect the author’s changing moods, it was a catalog of life’s wee tics and pangs, a tally of passed-down preferences for mustard, painkillers, snow blowers; how-to notes on taming a cowlick, skinning a deer, snapping a headlock, cleaning a toboggan. There were threadbare confessionals, overheard dialogue transcriptions, stabs at investigative journalism, and finally, on the last page, three maxims under the acronym AMFAS (As My Father Always Said).
1. Hit ’em back twice, three times as hard.
2. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.
3. Don’t wear red trousers to battle.
Why? thought Henry’s father, his fifteen-year-old son in a box before him. He hadn’t heard from Henry since he ran away four months ago, but it was becoming clear that the boy took little pleasure in his father’s principles. Dad felt the pulse beats quicken in his wrists, a vein rippled up in his forehead. The mourners sat as he stood still and sweaty, the ledger on the lectern. He opened to a random page and started reading.

Page 2018: color-coded pink for “facts, ma’am” 9/9/88 My father’s name is Harlan. He’s very photogenic. A terrific winker. People say he has movie star teeth. On his fortieth birthday he had them whitened. “Like a picket fence,” said Mom. He was coaxed into becoming a dermatologist in his late twenties. Truth is, he never had any real interest in medicine or humanity, but out of respect for community status he agreed to let his parents put him through medical school. Now he’s pretty rich, but cheap. Loves to get the display model. Hates to valet the car.
Harlan couldn’t stop reading. On page 2450, color-coded red for “world-changing,” he first saw the name of Benna.
At Canal Street I think of Benna. How she’d crouch up in a ball and face the white-brick wall of our bedroom, my fingers between her teeth. How, one time, she opened up the window and pointed to a star: “That’s how far away I feel from you right now.” She liked to pee at the same time as me, that is, with her sitting on the toilet and me standing up, facing her, aiming carefully at the small triangle of water between her legs. Sometimes she’d lick my stomach and try to make me miss.She called me “Roo” (as in kanga-), and I called her “Joey” because she said she liked to be carried around in my pouch. “Roo, I miss your pouch,” she sometimes said over the phone.
Harlan wiped his forehead with his tie, the pale blue silk turning navy from the sweat. The crowd cramped up, uneasy. He had forgotten all about them. He flipped quickly through the ledger in search of an exit quote—anything to get off that stage. He paused on page 2610, color-coded white for “?,” logged on March 20, 1989, the day before a shell painter found the soggy body washed up on the shore of Tenean Beach. Harlan spoke softly, trancelike, as if he didn’t understand English.
Telling the truth is so much easier. Every lie requires a lifetime of maintenance.
The old man froze. He looked toward the ceiling, suspicious, as if about to get spit on. The guests turned pink. It was as if they’d been pulled into a private war, violent and loom- ing. You could hear the heartbeats and then finally a sigh. Mom cued the record. The needle hit home, the temple filling with a century of reverence. Those goddamn clapping hands, thought Harlan. I should’ve cracked them long ago.
He did, in fact, one Scotchy day when Henry was at school. He took the record out back and launched it like a skeet. It shattered on the third shot from a bolt-action rifle, but the guilt came quick and heavy, and Henry’s father found hhimself driving in and out of lanes to the record store. He even roughed up the jacket, scratched the vinyl where it had been scratched before so Henry wouldddddn’t get any ideas.
But over the next few weeks, alone in the house with the ledger, the old man learned that Henry knew all along. About that and everything else.

Copyright © 2005 by Dana Adam Shapiro. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

What People are Saying About This

Tom Perrotta

"So many young writers have been described as 'Salingeresque''s a shock to come across one who fits the bill."

J.T. Leroy

"A story told with a savage disquiet wrapped in a disarming, triumphant hope."
author of Sarah and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things

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Every Boy 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really, really liked this book. I found it in a tiny old bookstore and I only spotted it because it was a small book crammed between tall ones. It's somewhat similar, I guess, to Catcher in the Rye. But, I hated Catcher in the Rye with all of my being. The Every Boy was much more interesting, in my opinion, and actually fun to read - one of those don't-wanna-put-it-down kind of books, unlike Catcher in the Rye, which I dreaded reading and only did so because it was required for school. Henry Every has a sort of quaint philosophical view on life which is what made reading about his day-to-day life so interesting. It's a very unique book, and I'd recommend it to almost anyone.
bookishjoxer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought I would like this book alot more than I actually did. It was good and insightful. I just felt let down a little. Had a nice touch of Irony in the end that I liked though.
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dana Adam Shapiro's The Every Boy cannot be considered a typical coming-of-age story, since the protagonist Henry Every is dead when the book begins. Instead, Henry's story is told through excerpts from his 2600-page ledger. The ledger entries interspersed with vignettes of Henry's life introduce the reader to this quirky, precocious, unique character.The plot itself is weak and meandering, fractured both by the non-linear method of storytelling and the strong focus on characters. This focus, though, is just as well, because most of the situations that Henry finds himself faced with are flat-out absurd. His mother leaves the family to raise weaver ants in the Netherlands. His father has devoted an entire room in their house to a "massive saltwater aquarium for lethal breeds of jellyfish." His best friend Jorden teaches him how to break into houses ¿ but just to look, never to steal. And his kind-of girlfriend Benna, born without a right hand, takes him to a party for voluntary amputees. Henry once told Jorden that he is looking to become "something smaller, something other," but his diligence taken with the ledger and his desire for knowledge suggest that he actually craves meaning, not more absurdity.But Henry's escapades should be taken merely as a backdrop to showcase the characters themselves, the engaging personalities and connections which Shapiro crafts. The relationship between Henry and Jorden is one of the novel's high points. Jorden is Henry's sounding board, an aspiring psychoanalyst brimming with medical knowledge and an assortment of arcane facts. Their quick back-and-forth conversations ("Who kills themselves more, boys or girls?" ¿ "Boys" ¿ "You know that for a fact?" ¿ "Girls try more, but boys are better at it") sound sincere, not the witty banter to which Shapiro could have stooped. And sometimes the mundane or the non-sequiturs ("Twenty years from now, we could still eat meals together, right? You and me, no matter what?" ¿ "We could watch baseball while we eat.") are as much about what is not said as what is. The interactions between Henry and Jorden do not seem contrived or overly sentimental, and they lend an understated sweetness to the book.As Tolstoy observed in Anna Karenina, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way; and every relationship in this book is dysfunctional in its own way. Each is tangled in deception or miscommunication: between Henry's parents, Henry and Benna, Jorden and her father, Henry and his father. Functional relationships are few and far between. This may be a reflection of one of the book's themes: nothing ever exactly makes sense or works out, but everyone just does the best that they know how to.But the plot itself is unimpressive. At the end, the reader is left with an unsatisfied feeling of "So what?" It was not critical for any plot to be resolved, the characters have changed but not in an especially overt way, and Henry does not even get to grow up like a proper bildungsroman. If anything, this is an anti-coming-of-age story, in which nothing in life really matters and efforts to conform, or even to understand, all amount to little.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago