Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

Golden Boy Source: Library

Five words from the blurb: intersex, school, secret, damage, parents

I don’t often pick books at random from library shelves, but perhaps I should if this choice is anything to go by. For some reason it called to me and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. Golden Boy is actually a YA book, but its central theme of acceptance is universal and it has an emotional depth that is hard to rival.

The book concentrates on Max, an intersex teenager, who is trying to understand his place in the world. The difficulties of adolescence are shown in unflinching detail and the complexities of teenage thought are so accurately portrayed that I was given a few flashbacks to my own teenage years. Max’s first experiences of love and romance were touching to witness and his vulnerability made these scenes especially moving.

I loved the way that the book was narrated by both Max and those close to him. This allowed the reader to develop a more complete picture of his life and added to the narrative tension. The emotional bond between Max and the reader was outstanding and by the end of the book I felt as though I knew him.

I cover my head with the duvet. Every thought I think convinces me a little bit more that I’m either insane or halfway there. My head feels so full of shouting voices that I can’t tell which one is my own. Which opinion is truly mine? Who am I? Does the fact that I don’t have a gender even matter? Or does it mean I am absolutely alone? Will anyone ever understand me just wanting to be me, or will they always think I’m a freak, forever,? Can I keep this secret? Or will the secret slowly poison my family?

The subject of intersexuality was handled with great tact and sensitivity. Facts about the condition were sprinkled through the text, but they never felt gratuitous or sensationalist. It gave the reader a greater understanding of this largely secretive condition; whilst showing that the problems of puberty are universal.

The book also showed the difficulties faced by parents as their children grow into independent adults. The grief of no longer being the centre of your child’s world was perfectly described and makes me cherish the time I have with own my boys all the more.

Overall this was an insightful book that has done more to explain the emotional complexities of being intersex than anything else I’ve read. 



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