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Review of Beetle Boy

willey_beetle boyBeetle Boy
by Margaret Willey
High School    Carolrhoda Lab    200 pp.
9/14    978-1-4677-2639-9    $17.95
e-book ed.  978-1-4677-4626-7    $12.95

As eighteen-year-old Charlie Porter slowly and painfully convalesces from a ruptured Achilles tendon at his girlfriend Clara’s house, bits of his past — years of being paraded around in a bug costume by his exploitive father as the “World’s Youngest Published Author” of the Beetle Boy series — begin to reveal themselves in the form of brutal nightmares in which he’s tormented by a giant beetle. While Charlie’s subconscious works through the traumas of his abusive childhood that are quite literally bugging him, bleeding-heart Clara considers her glimpse into his turmoil as an invitation to force him to confront his most painful memories in the name of healing (and emotional intimacy). Convinced she can save Charlie and help him repair relationships with the mother who abandoned him and the younger brother he, in turn, abandoned, Clara naively digs into his past without permission and finds more damage than she’s capable of handling. Throughout, Charlie convincingly wrestles with anger regarding the mental abuse and abandonment he suffered as a child, guilt for escaping that suffering while ultimately leaving his little brother behind, and gratitude toward crotchety old children’s book author Mrs. M., who did what she could over the years to care for him. Willey crafts a delicate psychological landscape through carefully timed flashbacks, showing how injuries (and small kindnesses) from the past inform future relationships. Relentlessly honest, and also hopeful.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shara Hardeson About Shara Hardeson

Shara Hardeson is a former editorial assistant at The Horn Book Guide.

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