This is a fun book to read. Hornby hides behind pop culture, football, and ephemera, but he’s really an astute observer of the human condition. In About a Boy, he has created a bevy of naturalistic, complicated, conflicted, and compelling characters, with inner lives and their own unique outlooks on life.
Will Freeman is an idler living off the royalties of the worst thing his father ever did, compose a stupid novelty Christmas song. Will doesn’t mind not having a job, in fact he finds it hard to believe most people can handle a job and their personal lives. But a bout of inspiration changes Will’s life forever when he decides to lie about having a child in order to meet and sleep with single mothers.
Meanwhile, Marcus is an awkward, sheltered 12-year-old boy whose divorced, depressed mother Fiona is inhibiting his social skills to a dangerous degree. Her strident distaste for modern music, sports, fashion, and television has left her son the only kid in school who doesn’t know Kurt Cobain or any of the starting 11 for Manchester United.
Eventually, their three lives, and a few other characters’, will intertwine in surprising and interesting ways. One of the novel’s chief assets is that Hornby never settles for the predictable or the comfortable. You might think you know where the story is going, but you’ll be wrong.
Hornby’s humor shines brightest in his illogically logical dialogue. Whenever two of Hornby’s characters talk, they are futilely trying to understand each other, with hilarious results. But if you look past the hilarity, you’ll realize that these characters have worldviews grounded in their experiences and their struggles with the world around them. This is truly a great work of fiction.