As I turned to the last two pages of “The New Boy,” I had to make sure that my eyes did not shift over to the last paragraph of the book on page 249. Reading the last two pages probably took about a minute; it took me 45 seconds to read the text and an extra 15 seconds to reread the last few bits of dialogue on page 249 and sit in disappointment.
Even though my review of the first half of Western alum Harley Tat’s novel The New Boy was positive and full of intrigue, but in regards to how the rest of the book plays out, I will say that I was a bit dissapointed and surprised.
“The New Boy” is about Andy Martin, a freshman at Western in the early 1980s who finds solace on the Warthogs, Western’s rugby team. As the book progresses, Andy’s troubled past follows him to Western when a series of murders occur on campus, and it seems like he keeps ending up at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I will maintain that the book’s setting, Bellingham, is one of the stronger aspects of the book, especially for Western students who can picture various places like the Horseshoe Café and Red Square and imagine how different they looked 30 years ago. Familiarity, while reading anything, always keeps me interested and my mind active, and that is one of the reasons I was so eager to finish the story.
Without spoiling anything, the primary reasons I was disappointed by Tat’s novel were the treatment of his characters and the conclusion.
In regards to the characters, I felt Tat’s excessive, but effective, descriptions of them were completely disregarded as the book headed toward conclusion. The last chapters short-changed a handful of the main characters and left me extremely disappointed as a reader. When reading a novel – something I do not get the pleasure to do very often as a college student – I like to immerse myself in what I am reading, and such a tactic really attaches me to certain characters; main character Andy and his roommate Owen. When an author surprises the reader by revealing hidden truths about a character, kills them off or unexplainably changes a character’s demeanor, it is not always a bad move – case and point Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series – but what Tat fails to do is back up the decisions he made in regards to the fates of his novel’s characters. Does he have any obligation to do this? No. But as a writer, he should have respected the characters he developed instead of shortchanging their fates.
Though I cannot divulge the ending of “The New Boy, “I will say that, for me, it was unexpected and disappointing. As an avid scary-movie watcher and unofficial fanatic, I will say that Tat uses the ever-popular tactic of setting his story up for a sequel. Do not get me wrong, I am a sucker for sequels – I own all seven “Saw” movies – but not only was I not expecting such for this book, I said to myself upon finishing it: “This does not need to be drawn out into another book.” The last few chapters introduce a number of different storylines and raise a few questions that could have been answered and concluded by adding two or three chapters to the relatively short novel – but no.
Amongst all the negativity, I will say that my distaste for the book is much more personal preference as opposed to saying the book is bad, because it is not. “The New Boy” does a great job at setting up a mystery and throwing different distractions at the reader to stifle the discovery of the truth. Placing that in the heart of Bellingham will read well with students and the community, it was just not my cup of tea.