Click here to read reviewer Steven Rosen's take on The Every Boy.
Harlan Every thought he knew his son, Henry, but after Henry’s body mysteriously washes up on the shore, Harlan discovers several secrets about his son’s life. Henry, a fifteen-year-old who has experienced the bitterness of separated parents and the possibility of romance with his best friend, Jorden, kept a color-coded log of his life. This 2600-page journal offers Harlan the opportunity to truly understand Henry’s life and death.
The journal serves as a plotline catalyst that outlines the detached relationships between Henry’s mother, Hannah, his father, and himself. Each detailed entry shows Henry’s attempts to understand his parents. Hannah obsesses with ant farms; Harlan fixates on jellyfish. He even builds an aquarium in the house, dons a stinger-proof suit, and climbs into the tank to study the creatures.
But Henry’s yearning for intimacy and a true connection takes him to New York, where he visits his grandmother, Lulu. She knows a family secret that if discovered, could explain the divide in the Every household. She and housekeeper, Papi, share a love/hate relationship that adds a subtle touch of comedy.
Henry’s visit to the City also introduces us to Benna, an elusive young lady with whom Henry is clearly infatuated. But if he’d look close to home, he would realize that he finds acceptance, friendship and love – key elements of a healthy relationship – from best friend Jorden.
In his journal, Henry wrote the following lines: “Telling the truth is so much easier. Every lie requires a lifetime of maintenance.” Will the lies swirling around Henry’s life lead to his death? Will his family be able to comprehend the irony of his short but insightful life?
Shapiro creates a quirky bunch of characters in this novel, and they keep the reader engaged. The pairing of each relationship and its subsequent unfolding within the storyline should make the reader consider the intricacies of any relationship. Hannah and Harlan appear to be complete opposites, but as the story develops, their relationship proves that keeping a happy marriage requires compromise. The pairing easiest to associate with is that between Henry and Jorden, two friends who grow up as best friends but find that once they reach puberty, the rules change. Their dialogue and friendship seems genuine, like a couple of friends you could remember from your high school days.
Readers might be surprised by the manner in which Henry meets his demise. By not revealing the details of his death until the next to the last chapter, Shapiro keeps readers contemplating how this vibrant adolescent loses his life. A good, but peculiar, twist!
The title of the novel drew me in. Upon completion, it is easy to see that not only is Henry’s last name Every, but that the book could possibly be written about every teenage boy who has experienced a feeling of detachment and longs for love and acceptance.