Picks and Pans Review: About a Boy
Will Lightman is a jobless London hipster who lives like a king off the royalties from his late father's corny Christmas song. Lightman thinks he's so cool he hears his inner voice telling him, "He's dry ice. He would die of hypothermia!" The gods of comic plotting contrive to make Will a father figure to Marcus, a neighborhood kid so nerdy he thinks Nirvana's lead singer was Kirk O'Bane, and an amusing male-bonding theme takes shape as the two guys teach each other to act their own age.
This gentle story is to High Fidelity—Hornby's masterly 1995 debut novel about a record shop owner who loves 45s and gets 86'd by his girlfriend—approximately what The Wonder Years is to Seinfeld: stylish, well-observed but laden with too many hugs and tears, especially in the second half. Hornby is trying to be mature, but he is as earnest as a first date, and it costs him laughs. Readers who dislike biting humor and mildly reprehensible heroes will prefer this book to Hornby's last; few will adore both. (Riverhead, $22.95)
Bottom Line: Half snappy, half sappy