Within the small, conservative town of Miller’s Creek, live some rather traditional people – with the exception of eleven-year old Jack Bennett, who is an artist and a dreamer at heart, much like his father Daniel. The Bennetts live on a small farm and tend to sheep, but that is not enough to maintain their family of four, so Daniel also paints houses to make ends meet.
Throughout his hometown, Jack is known for being… a little different. Unlike his fourteen-year-old brother Simon, he is still very much invested in make-believe and playing pretend games – he sees “the imagination as a way to see the world better.” His mother, Jean, noticing that the dreamy qualities of her younger son match far too closely those of her husband, favors her older child, supports Simon’s ventures into football and sports, while Jack is merely told to not be a “sissy.” But Jack’s world changes on a glorious day in 1975, when the house next door is suddenly occupied, bringing him a new friend and a new teacher, and bringing his father old memories. Unfortunately, the presence of a beautiful single mother and her illegitimate love child is a bit too much for Miller’s Creek to handle without resorting to idle gossip and hurtful insinuations.
Nonetheless, with Jack’s abusive teacher, Ms. Jackson, gone into early retirement, Mr. Rush is able to come in and open up a new world for a class used to taking a barrage of copious notes, not asking questions, and sitting according to gender in separate sides of the room. They learn about music as a form of time travel, as well as the interesting ideals of Greek culture, while bringing history to life within their classroom walls. Mr. Rush is even able to see Jack’s dreaminess for what it truly is: talent. And while Mallika is not the friend Jack had at first hoped for – after all, according to his father “girls don’t like science fiction” – he is pleasantly surprised to learn that Mel shares his love of Doctor Who – and that’s enough to create a strong and long-lasting bond!
With a new world opening up right before his eyes, full of classical music, mind-reading among friends, and the ability to draw without criticism, Jack can look at Mel and begins to understand that, “at last, he wasn’t afraid for her to look so long into his eyes, nor of himself looking into hers. Perhaps there, finally, was that connection he’d always longed for, that friend with whom he could play on equal footing. That… companion with whom to travel in time and space.” And that is exactly what Jack needs: a companion and a friend. Someone else to be the odd one out with… except together, they can simply ignore the rest of the world, and delve deeply into their magical world of immense imaginary proportions. Sadly, Jack and Mel’s friendship is not something everyone approves of – especially not Jean, since she is consumed with insecurity and jealousy over the history between her husband and Mel’s mother, Juliet.
Like all great things within this corrosive world, his friendship with Mel is tarnished and hurt by others’ toxic assumptions, insinuations, and lies. Much too soon, Jack discovers, “for every win, a loss. For each choice made, a million denied. Life is lonely.” And yet, as he is irrevocably changed by Mel, her zest for life, her infectious imagination, and most of all, her easy way of seeing through others… Jack is made aware of just how valuable his differences truly are.
Wonderboy is a deeply moving story of friendship found in unlikely places, dreams lost and reclaimed, and wondrous hopes made alight after slumbering for too long; it is a story about the beauty of art, imagination, and love. For “in art, there is a truth failed at by life. Art is us at our best, our most communicative, honest, and sensitive.” With thoughtful descriptions and gentle care for his characters, Tom Conyers gradually brings to life a small town with subdued personages, thereby causing the most colorful of beings to stand out. Yet as the story progresses, the reader can feel the color spread among the pages – all characters inevitably changed for better or worse, each action made more meaningful, and every decision heavily weighted with importance. Conyers artfully explores the effects of imagination on memory, as well as daily life, through the relationships between all members within Miller’s Creek – while some hold on tight to the memory of what was, others are haunted by the memory of what could have been, and still others simply bask is creating new memories. In the end, one might say this is a story of loss – but it is really a tale of how very much we can gain by letting go and embracing the beauty of our own individual worlds, the ones we create simply by wondering.
|Page Count||171 pages|
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