Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan – Book Review
Yet again, it’s been too long since I posted last. With work, settling into our new house, learning to code and extra distractions like family coming and buying a Nintendo 3DS (yep, that was probably the biggest distraction of all), I’ve pushed this poor blog to the back of my mind. But I’m here now! It’s time for another book review!
I spotted this book, Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan, at YALC last month and I was intrigued by the cover and the title. I managed to grab one when they gave out FIVE proof copies to book bloggers (I didn’t even rush over – I literally sauntered over and managed to grab one!). When I flicked through, I realised it wasn’t written in traditional prose – it looked like it was written in verse. Double intrigued. It was when I saw the quotes on the back of the book from Sarah Crossan (queen of verse) and Brian Conaghan that I knew I had to read this book!
A tale of two very different worlds, both shattered by the loss of loved ones. Tragic, comic and full of hope, thanks to a dog called Boy.
The kennel has been JC’s home ever since his new adoptive father locked him inside. For hours on end, JC sits and tells his dog Boy how he came to this country: his family; the orphanage and the Haitian earthquake that swept everything away.
When his adoptive mother Melanie rescues him, life starts to feel normal again. Until JC does something bad, something that upset his new father so much that he and Boy are banished to the kennel. But as his new father gets sicker, JC realizes they have to find a way out. And so begins a stunning story of a boy, a dog and their journey to freedom.
Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan:
The Writing Style
Goodnight, Boy is one of those books that you either a) click with straight away and you can’t put it down or b) take a while to get into it. I was the second one. I absolutely loved the writing style. Anything different to regular prose gets me straight away and it’s guaranteed to be a book I’ll remember for a long time. It’s not really written in verse as I initially thought – not full Sarah Crossan-poetry-style verse – but it’s definitely unconventional. I loved it.
However, it was just the story and the characters that took some getting used to. It’s the kind of story where you learn everything you need to know very slowly. It doesn’t give anything away too soon, and you find out what you need to know just at the right time. But for some, I can imagine it seeming a bit slow and confusing. As soon as I really got into the story though, I couldn’t stop – it really sucked me in!
The entire story is told from the perspective of JC, a boy who seems to be locked outside in a kennel with his dog, Boy. (I don’t know about you, but when I realised Boy is a dog and the book is called ‘Goodnight, Boy’, I panicked. I’m not telling you anything, though.) JC tells the story of his life so far, about his adoptive parents, and memories from his hometown. He reveals heartbreaking truths that really shocked me to the core. (It’s now a few weeks after I finished it and I’m still shocked!)
The more you learn about JC’s unfortunate life, the more you feel like crying into your pillow. But, the weird thing is – it feels like a happy tale! It’s uplifting, generally satisfying, and it made me glad that I read such an awe-inspiring book. It felt so true to life that it could be a real-life account. IT’S SO GOOD.
The Almost Disappointing (But Actually Not, Thank Goodness) Ending
The only qualm I’d possibly have about it is the ending. After racing through the book to find out what would happen, the ending seemed a bit… rushed. It’s such a slow-moving tale and I wanted to find out what happened to JC and his adoptive parents in as much depth as the rest of his stories, but they were wrapped up SO quickly! Like, it all seemed to rush rush rush towards an ending and everything was done in about 50 pages. It seemed a little disappointing to have to go back and read bits again because they moved so quickly.
I did start to worry that it’d turn into a ‘yay, the end, they all lived happily ever after, HOORAY’ ending. But luckily, it was so much more than that. It still had depth and it left me wondering about a few things (but not enough for them to feel like plot holes; more just little curiosities). It isn’t a horribly sad ending like I predicted (thank god), but it’s still not a gross fairy tale ending that would have left me annoyed. Life isn’t perfect – especially not JC’s!
If you’re a fan of unconventional writing styles, you should definitely try this out. It made the reading experience totally unique and I don’t actually know if I’d enjoy the story as much without it! Goodnight, Boy is a perfect concoction of humour, sadness, heartbreaking backstories and tremendous hope. It’s a story of family, loss, and finding those who feel like home. And most importantly, it’s the story of an everlasting friendship between a boy and his dog.
Interested in reading Goodnight, Boy? Hear what others have to say…
“If you come from nothing, then there’s everything to hope for. And with a little bit of hope, perhaps anything is possible.” – The Book Activist
“A beautiful, sad and touching story… you definitely need to read it for yourself because no review could do it justice.” – The Book Moo
“I could easily see this being made into one of those emotionally powerful movies Hollywood needs since it is a unique story with a great voice.” – Artistic Bent
About the Author
Nikki Sheehan is the youngest daughter of a rocket scientist. She went to a convent school in Cambridge where she was taught by real nuns in long black habits. She studied linguistics and then psychology and worked as a subtitler for the Simpsons, followed by many years as a journalist. She lives in Hove near the beach with her husband, three children, two dogs, one cat and definitely no more hamsters. Website / Twitter
Click the links below to buy a copy of GOODNIGHT, BOY, or read about it on Goodreads: