Click here to read reviewer LA Schindler's take on The Every Boy.
This first step by the author is an ironic outing combining the love of a mother and father - split up - for the death of their fifteen-year old boy. At the same time, the characters are at turns saturnine and lugubrious and, at time, even perfidious - that is, the mother and father blame the other and are damn angry at a world that would mysteriously remove their son from their midst.
Henry Every is an adventurous, quirky, and ultimately puissant type of individual who breaks into neighbor's back yards, questions everything, and writes down everything he does. He color-codes the passages to designate his feelings of the moment: blue means philosophical; black means, not too surprisingly, hypocritical bastards, the lot of you; and green simply connotes do-over.
The physical size of the book is wonderful; the 5"x7" debut seems to suggest a children's book, full of eighteen-point type and glamorous illustrations. But the almost immature stature of the book's dimensions, in actuality, more fully underscores the spellbinding and sophist-like renderings of an author brimming with recusant-styled ideas (in other words, he wants us to hear thoughts that might fly in the face of what we would normally expect) and not afraid to put them forth.
Our main little adventurer here, Henry Every, is no different than any other child experiencing the pangs of adolescece and maybe parents who don't fully understand the depths of him. But what's new?
Not many books could open with a fifteen-year old boy being mysteriously disappeared - and presumably ending up dead somewhere - and then relying on the remainder of the novel as a type of flashback. But Shapiro embraces exactly that format, and the result is pages filled with heart-hammering passages, teen love exposed to all the cruelties and caresses one might expect (hope to find) there.
In the end, we learn that Every dies when he tries to liberate his father's collection of Irukandji, deadly jellyfish the elderly Mr. Every has been collecting in an attempt to asuage the loneliness he was experiencing following the departure of his wife some time earlier. There are twists and tangled turns in story - this collector of tentacled-creatures is not the boy's real father, but he never knew that. The boy's mother, upon returning from an extensive separation, wants the non-father to know the real truth, and he finally does understand.
The boy, recently stung to death by these terribly poisonous creatures, brings stepfather and real mother back together. He asks, "He looks like me, doesn't he?" Hannah, the mother, "looked at her husband. She looked at their (dead son). 'Yes,' she said. She couldn't help but notice the resemblance." The resemblance is a similarity in personality, in thought patterns, in sweet-natured curiousity, and not to do with the hair or eye color they did not share.
The author is telling us that love adapts, it changes, and it is something learned. A revealing tale of love and what it is capable of doing to us; it is capable of doing anything to us, whether we want it or not, no matter how hard we fight or deny the allure impregnable force of it.
A sad love story about a boy who passes away at age fifteen and how the people left behind are forced to cope with a consequence seemingly beyond human endurance. But the couple does endure and down the road - we hope - they may once again find a perch upon which they may be able to rest bones fatigued with fighting to keep love alive. Now, maybe they've learned to accept that a love, any love, it if keeps us moving for a day or a decade, has value. And don't go questioning why, just accept that it's here now and may be gone tomorrow.