Zachary Woodruff’s “About a Boy” review titled “It’s a Guy Thing”, published September 8, 1998 in the “Tuscan Weekly”, criticizes what, in Woodruff’s opinion, makes the book entertaining and enjoyable yet not memorable and influential. The reader is presented with a short summary of the book’s main storyline focusing on why and how Marcus is an awkward kid, Marcus’s sources of misery and how Will fits into Marcus’s life. Will is able to assist him due to Will’s immaturity, which he employs as a tool to teach Marcus, whose development exceeds his age, how to be a child. The paradox of a grown man teaching a child how to in fact be a child is hinted in the book’s title “About a Boy”. Subsequently reading the book one realizes that the “boy” the title is referring to is more likely to be Will than it is Marcus, stressing Nick Hornby’s cleverness. Woodruff also points out Hornby’s cleverness in naming the protagonist Will Freeman as it is an obvious definition of the character himself. If one were to break down the name and truly look at the words’ definition one would find that Will Freeman does in fact live proudly by the lifestyle a free man with free will. Another main aspect Woodruff underlines is how Hornby did not aim for a cliché or extreme novel, which actually contributed to it. As opposed to other novels, the main relationship fixation in the book is not one between a man and woman but rather between a man and a child. Also another unique quality is that although one usually has preset notions concerning certain events in the book, they turn out nothing like one had expected which therefore makes the novel less predictable than others thus leaving the reader in astonishment. Hornby very rarely goes overboard with the plot as a whole although the opportunity to do so is available more than once. Furthermore Woodruff highlights the effect of the informal, relaxed prose Hornby uses supposedly with the intent to illustrate the protagonist and his way of thinking. What generally stands out of the novel as a whole is not its brilliance or wild imagination but rather its lack of those qualities and yet the reader’s ability to connect with the characters on a certain level. Consequently the book is temporarily effective and pleasurable, nevertheless was unable to build up to a long term, deep idea for the reader.
In order to grasp the attention and genuine intrigue of the reader, Woodruff is truly able to indulge in the review he is writing and do so for the reader as well. Rather than taking a solemn approach, he initiates the text with a sarcastic yet clever remark on the protagonist’s name: “This week’s winner for the most obvious fictional character name goes to Will Freeman.” (L.1) Because a hidden message is unveiled that not many of the readers would have noticed prior to reading this review, it leaves the reader dazed and bemused from the start. Throughout the review Woodruff seems playful and uses irony, and although that could be misinterpreted as “low quality”, it is in fact more inviting. Woodruff is able to get all of his views across to the reader in a way that the reader can understand and identify with his criticism. Another style in the language that contributes to Woodruff’s easy-flowing, down-to-earth review is its register. The level of the language used is relatively colloquial. Woodruff applies words like “dammit”, “man”, “butt-kicking” etc. which are considered slang/ taboo words. Short forms are also used in Woodruff’s review which is not to be used in formal language: “doesn’t”, “it’s” etc. Other than that the language is fairly simple and comprehendible. The usage of such informal and easy language makes this review accessible to anyone and everyone.
Woodruff also refers to expressions used daily that are easily able to stress the point one is attempting to make and yet is proficient in adding his own style; e.g. “cooler-than-thou”. It derives from the expression "holier-than-thou", which is...
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