Warm and funny, About A Boy is one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year. Nick Hornby is one of the most popular British novelists today. And almost page bears shining proof of his gifts of comedy and empathy as he tells the story of two lovable boys– 12-year-old Marcus, who knows his mum needs a man to be happy, and Will, who is 36 years old but acts like a teenager.
Living off his father’s music royalties and dead set against marriage and children, Will only wants a good time and great sex. A brief fling with a young mother estranged from her husband persuades him the ideal partner is a single mum who no longer expects lifelong commitment. But where to find single mums? Will joins an association of single parents, pretending to be the father of a two-year-old boy.
That’s how he meets Marcus. The boy joins the group for a picnic one day, brought along by his mum’s friend, Suzie, a single mum highly desired by Will. But before Will can hop into bed with Suzie, they have to return Marcus to his mum. Unfortunately, when they take him home, she is lying unconscious, having overdosed herself in a suicide attempt.
The three of them take her to hospital, and she recovers quickly, but that brings new complications. Marcus is drawn to Will and wants him to hook up with his mum, Fiona. But Will positively recoils from Fiona, an earnest vegetarian in the habit of singing Joni Mitchell songs with her eyes closed. Nor does Fiona care for Will, whom she finds too selfish and irresponsible.
But a 12-year-old can be so hard to resist, especially a boy as determined as Marcus. And, from the boy’s point of view, there is even a good fairy in the story — another woman whom Will fancies very much, but who has other ideas.
This is not exactly a fairy story. No one reaches the “happily ever after” stage. We don’t even know who will be bonking whom. But Suzie, Fiona, Rachel the good fairy, Will, Fiona’s ex-husband — Marcus’ father — and his current girlfriend are all drawn into a close circle which looks likely to remain friends. All thanks to a 12-year-old boy who, meanwhile, has acquired a 15-year-old girlfriend, about whom he is beginning to have doubts, however. He is no longer sure she is right for him.