Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: "Boo" by Neil Smith

"Boo" by Neil Smith
First published in 2015
310 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
"Boo" is one of the most unique books I've read this year. Somehow Smith managed to write a book about a dead eighth-grader -- not the most cheerful subject matter -- that is sweet, funny and thought-provoking. I fully recommend this quick read.

The Long Of It:
Just a few days into eighth grade, Oliver "Boo" Dalrymple dies in front of his locker (which was, fortuitously, number 106 -- the same number of elements in the periodic table in 1979, the year the book is set). One minute he's reciting the elements and looking at the picture of one of his heroes, Jane Goodall, taped up in his locker, the next he wakes up in "Town," a rather original, slightly wacky version of heaven just for dead 13-year-old Americans.

Back in America, Boo was pale as a ghost (hence the nickname), scrawny, ridiculously smart, mercilessly bullied, and -- the modern-day reader can discern -- likely had Asperger's (he's exactly like a younger version of Don from "The Rosie Project"). Boo also had a heart defect, which he assumes is the cause of his untimely death. A few days later, though, another boy from Boo's school, Johnny Henzel, arrives in Town with the news that he and Boo were murdered. Boo, Johnny and their new (slightly eccentric) friends set off on a mission through Town to unearth more information about the murders -- with quite unexpected results.

This book is a bit hard to peg. My library had it as adult fiction, but it could just as easily be a well-written young adult book. In fact, it would be a good book for teens to read, as it deals with topics like bullying and depression as well as friendship and forgiveness. It could sort of be called a murder-mystery, but the murders are really not the central focus of the novel. And though Boo, Johnny and friends are in "heaven" it's not at all a religious book -- in fact, living Boo was an atheist. It's a bit of a cross between "The Lovely Bones" and "Wonder" with plenty of quirk, originality and humor thrown in.

Regardless of exactly what kind of book "Boo" is, it's one that's at once charming, funny, poignant and infinitely readable -- and it should be read!


  1. Sounds like a good read. I'll give it a try.

  2. Ack. Another I'd been hoping to avoid, but your review makes me want to stick it on the ever-growing TBR pile. I'm not sure why others' reviews of it didn't jump out to me as much. Awesome review!

    1. I hadn't heard of "Boo" before I stumbled across it processing new books at the library. The cover pulled me in and I decided to check it out. I'm not sure everyone liked it as much as I did... maybe it helps that I had absolutely no preconceived notions about it. Sometimes I think reading reviews -- or even seeing a star rating on Goodreads -- affects my overall opinion of a book more than I'd like. Anyway, if you read it I hope you enjoy it! It was definitely darkly charming -- and short, too!


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