Boo (Vintage Contemporaries)

Neil Smith
Do you ever wonder, dear Mother and Father, what kind of toothpaste angels use in heaven? I will tell you. . . . This book I am writing to you about my afterlife will be your nitty-gritty. One day I hope to discover a way to deliver my story to you.It is the first week of school in 1979, and Oliver "Boo" Dalrymple—ghostly pale eighth grader; aspiring scientist; social pariah—is standing next to his locker, reciting the periodic table. The next thing he knows, he finds himself lying in a strange bed in a strange land. He is a new resident of a place called Town—an afterlife exclusively for thirteen-year-olds. Soon Boo is joined by Johnny Henzel, a fellow classmate, who brings with him a piece of surprising news about the circumstances of the boys’ deaths.In Town, there are no trees or animals, just endless rows of redbrick dormitories surrounded by unscalable walls. No one grows or ages, but everyone arrives just slightly altered from who he or she was before. To Boo’s great surprise, the qualities that made him an outcast at home win him friends; and he finds himself capable of a joy he has never experienced. But there is a darker side to life after death—and as Boo and Johnny attempt to learn what happened that fateful day, they discover a disturbing truth that will have profound repercussions for both of them.Hilarious and heartwarming, poignant and profound, Boo is a unique look at the bonds of friendship in what is, ultimately, a book about finding your place in the world—be it this one, or the next.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2021-09-10

When Oliver "Boo" Dalyymple wakes up in a "heaven" called Town, the 13-year-old thinks he died from the hole in his heart in the hallway of his middle school. But soon after arriving at the place reserved for 13-year-olds who have passed, Boo discovers he's a 'gommer', a kid who was murdered and that his killer may very well be in this heaven. With the help of Johnny, a classmate who was killed at the same school, Thelma, a 'Do-Gooder' Oliver meets when he first arrives in Town, and Ester, a 'Do-Gooder' in training, Oliver sets out to track down the mysterious Gunboy.

 

Written as letters to his parents, Boo tells them about his heavenly adventures as he forms friendships for the first time, learns about forgiveness, and makes peace with the boy he once was.

 

Boo is one of those books I've had on my TBR shelf for years that, through all the weeding I have done with that shelf, I knew I would want to read it. I'm glad I kept it because it's easily become one of my favorite books.

 

I will be honest and say I wasn't sure about Oliver/Boo and if I would like this at the beginning. Super smart teenagers almost always come across as too cocky for me to care. I'm not entirely sure when my feelings switched and I did a 180, but it wasn't very far into the novel (pretty sure it was a page after the thought that I might not enjoy this ran across my mind). Boo has become one of my favorite characters and his story is one that will stay with me.

 

Boo and Johnny's journey kept me interested throughout the whole thing. Boo's voice and his little inputs to his Mother and Father would almost always make me smile.

 

Though the characters are all thirteen-year-olds, I don't know if I would see myself as categorizing this as a young adult... it just didn't really feel like your typical YA. It's for sure a coming-of-age type of story, but I would just put this as regular fiction that would also appeal to teens.

Reviewed: 2015-08-24

An unusual story of a 13-year-old boy experiencing the afterlife, Boo has one foot in YA while still managing to be clever and relatable to older readers. 

If I had to choose one word to describe this book it would be a favorite word of Edgar A. Poe: singular. The twists in plot never turn out quite as expected and each of the characters is complex and continually evolving. I've never read a book that was sodifferent from every other book.

I believe what really brings this book into the realm of the spectacular is the voice of the narrator. The author crafted an intelligent, inquisitive narrator without the baggage of pretentiousness and presented the tragic consequences of bullying with a character that refrained from whining or complaining. 

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was the lack of sexuality. Boo briefly mentions his sexuality in a few sentences that left me thinking he is either asexual or hadn't yet developed the sexual feelings of puberty. This was a brilliant choice by the author as it diverges yet again from the typical YA novel and keeps the focus on the protagonist's development and relationships with the people around him. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book and rated it 5 stars, there were two (very) minor things that I disliked. The first is the way the periodic table is used to mark the chapters. I thought this idea was creative, but there are several times that an element (or several) is shown, but doesn't correspond to a chapter. It's possible that I missed a meaning behind this decision, but it simply seems as if the author couldn't find a way to use all 106 elements and so interspersed some at random points throughout the book. 
The second thing that didn't seem quite right was the narrator's rebranding of the distant deity of the afterlife as "Zig". This fantastical rebranding struck me as being out of sync with the narrator's scientific, no nonsense personality. 

These two minor things aside, this was an incredible read and I will be recommending it to all of my book-loving friends. 

A special thank you to Goodreads and Vintage Books for the Advanced Reader's Edition!
 

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