One of the Boys

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 14 Mar 2017

Member Reviews

absolute gut punch of a novel. One of the Boys is harsh, gritty, short, but impactful. With nameless characters, it makes it a little difficult to read sometimes, but I quickly overcame that when I became fully immersed in the story.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to preview this ARC of One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel.  

A father has just reclaimed his youngest son from his ex-wife.  And now re-joined with his dad and brother, our 12 year old protagonist (who is not named in the story) is back with The Boys.  Dad has come out on top with the divorce, and our initial picture of mom is of a woman who is unstable and abusive.  But things unravel quickly as dad also shows terrible signs of abuse and bad choices.

This book was not enjoyable to read.  It had very few redemptive qualities, and all I saw was a drug addicted dad who was emotionally and physically abusive, teach his sons how NOT to be good people.  Depressing and fruitless.
Was this review helpful?
An overall easy reading but with shocking and brutal themes could not be simple for some people to digest this and I complete understand.
Was this review helpful?
Raw and brutal, this is a short but not always easy read. It's crafted well and compelling, but I imagine could well be a difficult topic for people.
Was this review helpful?
“I thought you were one of the boys.” 

Being one of the boys is a pretty simple task. Choose the right side in “the war.” What war, you might ask? The war between mother and father. Pick dad and you pick strength – fun – a new start in a new location – a chance to be one of the boys with him and your brother. Pick mom and you’re weak – nothing – less than nothing. It’s not until your new life starts that you begin to see what started the war to begin with. Dad’s volatile temperament, his inability to focus on his job at times, and the worst thing of all – the strange chemical smells that come out of his bedroom when he locks himself in there, sometimes for days at a time “smoking cigars.”

I’m pretty sure I read this wrong. Okay that’s a lie. I know I read this wrong. It was supposed to make me feel all the feels and it didn’t. That’s alright, though, because everyone knows I'm a monster.  And this time I’m blaming everyone in my household being sick as the problem instead of my lack of heart.  

In addition to all that, here’s the deal: I would totally market this as young adult. Although it deals with some super serious mature storylines, I’m all about pushing the envelope. My (upper) middle schooler is currently reading an “award winning” recommendation from the school district. So is his teacher’s FOURTH GRADE son. It probably goes without saying my (not a voluntary reader to begin with) kid is hating every second of this experience. One of the Boys has a lot of things that might keep him interested: it’s short (remember, not a big reader), it’s contemporary and it deals with adult subject matter (drug use and child abuse). The thing that works for me when it comes to books I like discussing with the kid is the “book clubby” nature that generates conversation. Why do the characters not have names? What does he think was really up with the mom? Why does he think the boys chose dad in “the war”? Was dad healthy before they moved away from Kansas? Does he think the kids did anything wrong ever – either back in Kansas or in New Mexico? Why does he think they never tried to get away or tell someone about what was happening? Would HE tell someone what was happening if this was his life? THIS is the type of outcome I want to have after my kid finishes a book. Not to mention his privileged little hiney could stand a dose of “not everyone has it so good” every once in a while. If you’re like me, you might want your kid to read this one too. If you’re not like me I have a bunch of generic, vanilla recommendations from the school I can give you : )
Was this review helpful?
It's a bleak subject matter, so that can make it a difficult read. That being said, it was a heartbreaking depiction of child abuse and parental love.
Was this review helpful?
As a twelve-year-old boy in the middle of his parents' divorce-

1. Will you lie for the better good?
2. Will you believe in every lie that comes out of the mouth of the parent you lied for? Sided with?
3. What will you do when you know you've been removed from hell and are placed in an even worse and grotesque version?
4. How would you get yourself out of the mess that you were manipulated into the first place?
5. What will you do only to survive each day, every hour, each passing minute?

One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel is a raw and naked version of what many authors have glamorized and dressed-up to soften the blows of domestic abuse, child abuse (which is psychological and physical). It is rightly done because the narrator is a twelve-year-old boy who's speaking his mind through the prose of One of the Boys.

The narrative is simple yet powerful; moving and desperate and everything in between. Even when the main characters in the book had no names, the story caught my attention from the very first sentence. I could only compare the anonymity of the characters to those people in video recordings whose faces are blurred or they sit in darkness and narrate their heart-wrenching story. This anonymity had the same effect on me. I did feel connected even when there was no mention of names. It was a high-risk play by the author, but the story left me feeling too much of everything and had my heart beating with anxiety. I could connect to the boys on every level.

With the straight-forward narrative, there was no place left for the reader and observer in me to comment or offer a suggestion. As a twelve-year-old boy and his fourteen-year-old brother, they did come up with possibilities and solutions on their own.

How do you cope up with a lying, manipulative, drug-addict father?
How do you seek help from a mother who you've abandoned to be with your father?
How do the boys overcome the psychological and physical abuse suffered by the hands of both their parents?

I have no idea. 

I swear to God, One of the Boys made me cry for all those children tangled in this chaotic mess of a life. They're helpless at the hands of their abusers, whom they trust the most. There were disturbing excerpts throughout the book which made me re-read the passages even when they disgusted me to the bone. These passages also made feel grateful for having parents who are such wonderful human beings.

Coming back to the feelings of the boys suffering at the hands of their narcissistic father. Daniel Magariel did a spectacular job of showing the feelings of the two brothers. The angst, the helplessness, isolation, feelings of denial and confusion, and the fear of the unpredictable behavior and punishment at the hands of their father kept the boys on their toes and me on edge.

I reserved my pity for the parents who being adults couldn't get a handle on their own problems and how the boys suffered at their incompetence. The family was dysfunctional at best from all angles, but I rooted for the brothers till the end. 

The style in which the epilogue was written was a massive risk, a kind of jerky portrayal of 'what could've been' and it brought tears to my eyes. We don't know what happened to the boys or their father or their mother in the end. It kept me up all night thinking about the possibilities.

Oh. The. Possibilities.

I'm open for discussion because this story/reality really stirred my soul.
Was this review helpful?
(Source: I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing the copy. This will not influence my reviews.)

Trigger warning: this book contains an abusive father and the use of drugs.

One of the Boys is a moving story because of how bad the experiences of the two brothers. Their father is a drug addict, abusive, and manipulative. When the parents of the two brothers filed divorce, they ended up to live with him.

The writing of the story is dull but I can still feel the emotions on the book like sadness, compassion, and empathy. This book will make you sad, angry and traumatizing.

Since the theme is deep and talks about effects on the use of drugs in the family, expect that there’s no character development. It’s just stay there, it’s revolves how scary it was.
Was this review helpful?
Violence, bullying, abuse, lies, manipulation--these are the family dynamics in One of the Boys. I'm not sure any of the characters were very likable though there was sympathy for the brothers who were frequently victims of their father. While the mother was likely his victim as well, she was not very developed as a character to really judge. Thank you, NetGalley for the advanced copy.
Was this review helpful?
I'm not sure why I expected Daniel Magariel's One of the Boys to be a thriller; perhaps it was the publisher's references to "late night noises," "the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters," and violence. As it turns out, One of the Boys is not a thriller in the sense of a novel which elicits feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, or anticipation, although the sense of anxiety is palpable. Instead, it is something much richer and deeper.

The family at the center of One of the Boys is a textbook example of dysfunctionality, with rampant physical and emotional abuse battering the two brothers who, along with their father, are the "boys" of the title. What made this book stand out for me was Magariel's decision to use the younger boy as a first-person narrator recounting events as they occur. I don't think I've ever seen such brutality described in such a matter-of-fact tone by a child, as if he sees nothing that happens as particularly surprising. To him, his life is just "business as usual." My response as a reader was disturbingly visceral; I just wanted to snatch him up and run with him as fast and as far away as possible. Parents especially should brace themselves before opening this book, which insists upon being read in a single sitting. I also recommend that you have your children nearby when you reach the end; I guarantee that you're going to need a hug.

This review was based on a free ARC provided by the publisher.
Was this review helpful?
One of the Boys, is Magariel’s debut novel and he is a heck of a writer. I read the gripping novella in one sitting and although some parts were difficult to take in, I found myself wanting to read more. However, this somber, dark story is not for everyone. If you are faint of heart and easily shocked, skip this one! The book deals with explicit language, abuse (verbal and physical), and drugs. On the other hand, it is not all gloomy. The love the brothers have for one another is powerful and uplifting. The flow of the novel was steady, but at times I had a hard time knowing if what was taking place was in the present or past. I did it find it interesting the protagonists in the novel have no names, but don’t worry, this does not affect the story one bit. Though the ending was not my favorite, I look forward to future books from Magariel. I hope he can give us a book that is not as dark as One of the Boys, so other readers are willing to give him a try.
Was this review helpful?
Shockingly honest

A powerful, raw and brutal account. It's a story but when reading it, that is a fact easily forgotten. Three boys: two brothers, and their father. They leave their home, to start anew. That's where this book picks up from, their new journey and their father's secrets. The two brothers left behind their mother, back at their old Kansas home, after their parents' divorce. They chose their father, and he intends to keep it that way.

The story was chilling, their father's manipulation, his way of pitting his boys against their mother, against each other. All the while, he remained this charming man protecting his children. He wants to give them back the childhood that ended too soon but this time, they'll all be kids again. They only have each other.

Magariel writes with such an intensity, at times it was heart breaking but other times, it was insanely brilliant. I loved the brotherhood element, two brothers against the world, how in spite of it all, there was this loyalty that binded them together. Looking out for one another.

I loved this moment, when their father says "You boys, you’re so close in age, you’re supposed to be there for each other. You’re supposed to stand up for each other no matter what. You understand, don’t you ? Don’t you? Don’t look at me. What are you looking at me for? Look at your brother. Look at your brother, damn it.” We turned to each other. “This is your brother for life. You are his last line of defense.”

But still they were loyal to their dad, he was 'one of the boys'. Their father, their idol. The man they both, loved and feared. It was these feelings, he used to his advantage- to control them. They soon realise that there is no way of going back, sometimes the innocence of youth just escapes you. Some choices are too hard to make, some choices are made for you.

This book was brutal but I do recommend it. It portrays the 'no escape' mentality when dealing with domestic abuse, and the belief that you may be betraying your family.

I received this book through NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
What a sad, harrowing book! It's told from the perspective of a 12 year old boy, who just wants to be "one of the boys" with his dad and older brother. When his father and mother get divorced, his dad uses his need to belong to the male side of the family to get him to fake abuse on the part of his mother. Custody obtained by the father, the "boys" head out to New Mexico from Kansas. 

The boy's need to be a part of the fraternity allows him to initially overlook the instability of his father, at least at the start of the book. The story of the disintegration of the family is told in simple, straightforward prose. Short sentences predominate, and they hit hard. Once in New Mexico, the father's drug addiction becomes unavoidably apparent to both boys. At first, the nastiness of Dad is directed toward the boys' mother, and the boy finds himself joining in. Then, Dad just seems to ignore the boys as they struggle to keep the household running in the face of devastating neglect. Then emotional abuse. And finally, physical abuse. This short book runs the gamut of the effects of parental drug abuse on the children. Its honesty is heartbreaking.

The sparseness of the prose is in some ways a metaphor for the sparseness of feelings (especially love) in the boy's life. None of the characters is given a name, but that only serves to outline their isolation. Magariel is nonetheless able to give each of the "boys" distinct characters. 

This short and intense depiction of what it is like to be the child of an addict will stick in the readers' minds long after the final word is read.
Was this review helpful?
short and brutal, beautifully written, hard to read, undeniably masterful
Was this review helpful?
I didn't know how I should feel after finishing this book. It really disturbed me. What should we do when we can't trust  in our own family? The only people we should rely don't care about us at all. This book is fictional although I believe families like that existed out there. It's a heartbreaking story and it will make you angry and problably sad about the situation. While the parents don't care about their own children, the love that matters it comes from your brother/sister. We'd do everything for our family, perhaps that's not the best on all situation. Thank you NetGalley for this novel in exchange for an honest review. ♥
Was this review helpful?
Boys face particular challenges growing up. There’s often a weight of expectation to conform to certain gender stereotypes: to be strong, aggressive and withhold emotion. As adults we can more easily see how hollow this armour is, but when we’re young it’s difficult not to modify your personality trying to fit in with this brotherhood of masculinity. I grew up in a rural environment where I certainly felt this pressure. Men I knew hunted and made jokes while carving and gutting the corpses of deer they shot. They fished for the sport of it and released their living catch to swim frantically away, trailing a line of blood behind them in the water. Boys chased and sexually teased girls and laughed at them when they cried. I was ordered to chop wood outside for our fireplace while my sister had to stay inside to help with the housework. Whenever I questioned these gender roles I was laughed at or ignored. But most of the time I didn’t see the stark gender divisions in my community because it was all I ever knew.

I was deeply moved reading Daniel Magariel debut novel “One of the Boys” by the way he presents an intense domestic situation of a boy living with his older brother and domineering father. He learns about what it means to join in with this cult of masculinity: its benefits and its pitfalls. There’s an exquisitely played out tension between his desire for validation from the men in his life and his desire to supersede or reject them. He and his brother choose to live with his mother over his father because “our loyalty had always been to our dad. He was stronger. We feared him. He needed us. His approval always meant so much more than hers – it filled me up.” The way in which they creatively expunge their mother from their lives is truly horrifying. His father continues to act badly becoming a habitual drug user, bullying people who oppose him and physically abusing his boys. What’s especially tragic about this is how the boy narrator learns that “My father would get away with this for a lifetime – the arrogance, the self-regard, the lack of consequences.” Boys see how abominably and brashly men can act without being taken to task for it and the result is that many of those boys grow into men who act the same.

What’s so impressive about Magariel’s style of writing is the crisp way he presents these ideas about gender in short declarative sentences that cut right to the heart of the boy’s experience and emotions. For example, after long periods of abuse from his father he paradoxically finds that “I didn’t want his kindness. His cruelty was less confusing.” With deft, impactful prose the author conveys complex ideas about the way this boy’s specific upbringing warps his conception about his identity, life and the way men should behave. This is also a short book, but the depth of this dramatic story of addiction, betrayal and poverty runs deep. It makes an interesting contrast to Edouard Louis’ recently translated novel “The End of Eddy” which presents a different portrait of how boys are inducted into typical masculine behaviour – especially when growing up in a working class community. It also reminds me of Justin Torres’ powerful novel about brotherhood “We the Animals” and interestingly Torres has a blurb on the book calling it “a captivating portrait of a wayward father.” With its moving story, this novel delicately prompts readers to consider how gender played a role in their own childhood and, for that reason, I think it will continue to resonate with me for a long time.
Was this review helpful?
This book was difficult to read, brutal in many parts, but important in every way.
My only disappointment with this story was the epilogue.  I felt the book was more satisfying without it.
Still, recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Imagine walking down a city street and looking at the wide variety of people. Picture a stranger who seems so threatening that it puts you on edge; someone you would be frightened to speak with, much less invite into your home. Read news stories about the terrible things people do to each other. Think of the most despicable person you know.  

Now consider that these people often have children. What must it feel like to live with these self centered, cruel tyrants, to be entirely dependent on them for everything, for life itself?  Now add in substance abuse, and serious psychological disorders. Not a pretty picture. 

For those fortunate enough to have grown up in a functional family, with healthy parenting, this may be difficult to imagine. Here is your chance. This book describes the experiences of two young brothers who struggle to cope with a father who seems to be descending into madness. He starts out abusing only their mother but after winning a custody battle and moving to another state with the boys, he begins abusing them in similar ways. He gradually starts devolving into a kind of monster due partially to drug abuse. He is completely self centered, and neglects them, expecting them instead to take care of his needs. He is physically and psychologically abusive to the boys, who depend on each other to stay as safe as possible. As this becomes increasingly difficult, events take a turn for the worse. 

I read this book in one day. I could not put it down. I highly recommend this brilliant debut, and look forward to reading much more from this author. 

Note:  I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
An amazingly emotional engaging novel.  You will keep turning pages even though your heart is aching.
Was this review helpful?
Emotionally moving book. Hard to put into words how this book made me feel, other than drained, but not necessarily in a bad way.
Was this review helpful?