Not Just a Boy is a warm coming-of-age human story about growing up and first love(s). A 78-pages-long novella – we can only wish it lasts longer! – of the talented author Jonathan Hill from Manchester, UK, takes us gently back to our childhood and school days where everything seemed to have been easier, carefree and more innocent. Unless . . . you were different.
For one of the two best friends moving to another school was everything but easy or innocent. Not being able to fit into the new environment, in difference to his friend, he is immediately labeled an outcast, unfit, different. His adolescent days unexpectedly turn into a nightmare of name-calling, ridiculing, bullying and physical assault; it seems like everybody knows about his schoolboy crush much sooner than him, even before he is fully able to comprehend the truth about himself. “There was precious little evidence, and certainly nothing concrete, to confirm that I liked boys. I just knew that I’d fallen for him. And if he’d been a girl or a . . . or a frog . . . maybe I would have felt just the same love towards her or it.”
Evidence or not, society doesn't forgive, and certainly not his school mates. Being different, being a boy with a crush on another boy, has a high price. And the price of being different he has to pay with broken friendships, isolation and loneliness, shame, confusion and torment.
After a grand opening, “I have been running for only a minute, maybe two, and yet their frenzied shouts are oddly distant, as if they originate not only from another part of the wood but from another time entirely. Every inch of me is riddled with pain and if I stop to think how bad the pain actually is, it is enough to make me want to tear off my limbs with my own teeth.”, and the tragedy that preceded this running but has been revealed only later in the book, at the end of the story, Jonathan Hill leads us to a pleasantly calming sunset of this remarkable novella, which warms our hearts with a promise of restored friendship and hope for a normal life despite being different.
Special kudos to the book cover art which just about perfectly captures the story that is about to grip and glue us from the first page already.