This is an interesting concept, discovering you’re a teenage Dad when you’re planning your future at university, and finding your whole world has turned upside down. Malorie Blackman’s new novel Boys Don’t Cry had me racing through it to get to the end. And for those of you who know me, it will come as a surprise when I say I felt it could have been 100 pages longer. I somehow think there could have been more meat on some of those bones.
There are questions posed by Malorie at the back of the book, with a number of ‘what if’ type of scenarios, which is one way of making readers look at a problem from different angles, but I’d have liked more in the actual story. Thoughts I had at the beginning, which I felt certain would be addressed by the last page.
Malorie never says, but I take for granted that Dante is black, and the scene where he is accused by (I think) a white woman of being a benefits scrounger brings home the idea that it’s seen as worse or more typical for a young black male to have become a father, than it would a white teenager. At least I think that’s how it’s intended.
Having a hitherto unknown baby dumped on your doorstep would be disturbing to anyone, but for Dante who not only has plans for his life, but who knows nothing about babies, it’s catastrophic. His widowed father is furious and his gay younger brother is delighted.
I’m not convinced by baby Emma, who at times is made to look very tiny and at times is far too old for her age, but it’s hard to get what you want to happen without her. And the gay sub-plot is a little stereotypical, but Dante’s brother Adam is a lovely boy, if a little naïve.
The social worker made my blood freeze; much more so than the actual violence in other parts of the story. It says on the cover that the book isn’t suitable for younger readers. While people feel that way, this kind of early, accidental parenthood will keep happening. It’d be good if many more teenagers read Boys Don’t Cry. It’s what this country needs.