Golden Boy by Abigal Tarttelin
Published: 21 May 2013 by Atria Books
Genre/s: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, GLBT
Pages: 352 (hardcover)
Published: 16 May 2013 by Whole Story Audiobooks
Length: 13 hours, 27 minutes
Narrators: Toby Longworth, Penelope Rawlins, Antonia Beamish, Oliver Hembrough
Source: Own library
The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world. They are even better at keeping them from each other.
Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he's the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He's even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max's mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the façade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the façade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband, Steve, has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.
The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret. Why won't his parents talk about it? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he's starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him — desire him — once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?
It had been about six months since I had listened to an audiobook, and I was desperately searching for the Right One to get me back into it. And when Christina mentioned Golden Boy was fantastic, I knew I must be onto a winner - firstly it sounded fabulous, and secondly Christina is probably just as particular about narrators as I am.
Told through multiple POV's, Golden Boy is the story of Max - who is intersex and raised by his parents as a boy. Quite secure with himself, Max is a golden boy - good at sports, popular and beloved by his mother, Karen. It's only when his friend Hunter does something completely horrible to Max, is he forced to look at who he is, how he fits into the world, and what his future may hold.
Max is incredibly likable as a character - although he excels at anything he sets his mind to, he's a genuinely nice person - he spends a lot of time with his younger brother, who is Max's complete opposite, treats his parents with a lot of respect and love, and genuinely tries to do the right thing. It was impossible not to want the very best outcome for him both in terms of the plot of the book and for his future.
Both of his parents, Karen and Steve, have their flaws, as all realistic parental characters should. Karen tends to over-control a situation and Steve lets her pretty much rule the roost - what Karen says, for a majority of the book, is what goes - but it doesn't make her unlikable because her intentions are always to protect her children, no matter what.
The relationship that I particularly loved was that between Max and Sylvie. Sylvie is a slightly unconventional girl, who although is friends with popular kids, also comes across as a bit of a loner. Her number one priority is the people she loves, not what is the cool thing to do, and I had an unlimited amount of respect for how she handled absolutely everything that happened during the course of the book.
What Tarttelin does best though, is to get inside of heads of the characters. Whether they are good, bad or somewhere in the middle, they are consistent and realistic - it felt like I was listening to real people tell their story, rather than actors voicing a book. Particularly tense moments are just that - tense, page-turning and completely absorbing. She also handles the subject of intersexuality, and all the medical and psychological aspects without resorting to dramatics to get the point across - the characters really tell the story themselves through their actions.
The narration is absolutely perfect - all the narrators play their part perfectly, the emotions are conveyed in a way that felt realistic and the characters really came to life through their voices.
I will unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone - it's as close to perfect as they come.