* For all you English and Americans out there reading this blog (impressive if that’s actually the case), this book also goes by What The Birds See.

Of A Boy, by Sonya Hartnett, may take the cake as the most poignantly sad book that I’ve read so far in 2013.  Not a tear-jerker, per say, but one of the books that make your stomach ache just a little because you feel so, so bad for the main protagonist.  And if that isn’t sad enough, the protagonist in Of A Boy is a lonely 9 year old.

Of A Boy is set in 1977 and begins with the media coverage of three young children who have mysteriously gone missing, believed to have been abducted. Adrian is close to being a misfit at his primary school, with the one friend, Clinton, all that there is between him and social exile, and sadly the friendship is tenuous at best.  During this time, a family moves into the home across the road from Adrian and he befriends 12-year old Nicole, who confuses and almost frightens Adrian, but to whom he grows an attachment to, and an unlikely friendship begins.

As a bit of background, Adrian is a boy whose only goal appears to be to make it to the end of the day, week in, week out.  During a time when we’re usually excited and emboldened by the everyday, eager to play with friends, discover new things and above all else, believe that we are the entire universe and everyone’s lives resolve around us (or was that just me?), Adrian is lacklustre, afraid and above all else, fears that he is boring.  Taken away from his mother who is ‘unsuitable to care for him’, unwanted by his father, and left with his grandmother who is ageing and wants her freedom, Adrian has never felt wanted, included or appreciated in his nine years.

Of course, since this is a terrifically sad book, it has a sad and somewhat unfinished ending (in my opinion at least).

I found Sonya Hartnett to be a beautiful writer.  Her writing is simple and her descriptions crisp, and I felt that I could perfectly picture Adrian’s home, school and friends.  Despite not being a long novel, it still poignantly captures a time and an atmosphere, while telling a story that is both saddening and perhaps bittersweet.

Although there were aspects about him that infuriated me, I sympathised so strongly with poor Adrian.  It is rare that I develop a strong connection with a character, particularly a nine year old boy, whose essence Hartnett captures perfectly.  Do we not all remember, however dimly, those feelings of wanting to fit in with classmates out of fear of being ostracized?   Of being confused by what’s happening amongst the ‘adults’ who refuse to tell us truly what is going on?  Of those friends who we may not truly like, but stay friends with because they’re perceived as ‘cool’ or popular?

Although, for the majority of the novel, nothing dramatic happens to Adrian, it is almost heart-breaking to read about the complete lack of self-worth and confidence that Adrian has in himself.  And what’s worse, is it’s the actions of his parents and his family that have led him to feel this way, sadly something that occurs throughout families every day.

Overall, Of A Boy is a wonderful novel because of Hartnett’s writing, which provides with perfect clarity into the mind and heart of a lonely, little boy.  Although this isn’t a novel, or a protagonist, that I would usually be interested in, I’m glad that I picked this book up and learned a little more about Adrian’s life, even if it did make me sad in the process.

Have you read anything by Sonya Hartnett?  Have you read Of A Boy?  Let me know!

of a boy by sonya hartnett

Of A Boy – (image taken from http://www.upload.wikimedia.org)