Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Review: The Outside Boy

When I told some of my Irish friends I was reading a book about the Irish tinkers (or travellers or Pavees, as they preferred to be called), they all pretty much scoffed and complained about them. I had never heard of the nomadic group before reading The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins. But I didn't get any of the negative connotations of these individuals from the novel.

Cummins beautifully tells the story of Christy, an 11-year-old "tinker" who travels across Ireland with his dad, grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. Christy's mother died 7 minutes after giving birth to him, and it's always been something that haunted him.

Within the first 50 pages, Christy's beloved Grandda also dies, and after Christy's cousin Martin sets fire to Grandda's wagon in an attempt to "free" their dead patriarch, Granny decides it's time to stay in one place for a little while so Christy and Martin can go to school and receive Communion; Granny is sure Martin has the devil in him.

After the two young boys are finally accepted into a school and the family temporarily leaves their wagons in one place for a while, Christy gets to live the life he's always wanted to. He's so excited to start school, where he starts crushing on a girl he calls Finnuala Whippet.

While also in town, Christy starts to have more and more questions about his mother, and why his dad never talks about her. After his grandfather's wagon burns, Christy finds a strange picture of his mother. He starts on a quest to find out more about this woman he's been grieving for all his life.

For someone who's never been an 11-year-old boy, Cummins voices Christy beautifully. He is a wonderful character; a good boy with a good heart who just wants to find out who he is and tackle these amazing issues no one his age should have to while also dealing with school bullies and his first kiss. Cummins tugs on the reader's heartstrings during Christy's search to find out more about his mother; I teared up more than once.

Whether reading inside or outside, you'll find yourself not being able to put down The Outside Boy.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary advanced review copy of this book from the publisher.

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