Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Fiction.
Synopses & Reviews
In his stunning debut novel, The World Of Normal Boys
, K. M. Soehnlein captures the spirit of a generation and an era, embodied in the haunting, unstoppable voice of thirteen-year-old Robin MacKenzie, a modern-day Holden Caulfield, whose struggle for a place in the world is as ferocious as it is real.
The time is the late 1970s an age of gas shortages, head shops, and Saturday Night Fever. The place, suburban New Jersey. At a time when the teenagers around him are coming of age, Robin MacKenzie is coming undone. While normal boys are into cars, sports, and bullying their classmates, Robin enjoys day trips to New York City with his elegant mother, spinning fantastic tales for her amusement in an intimate ritual he has come to love. He dutifully plays the role of the good son for his meat-and-potatoes father, even as his own mind is a jumble of sexual confusion and painful self-doubt. But everything changes in one, horrifying instant when a tragic accident wakes his family from their middle-American dream and plunges them into a spiral of slow destruction.
As his family falls apart day by day, Robin finds himself pulling away from the unquestioned, unexamined life that has been carefully laid out for him. Small acts of rebellion lead to larger questions of what it means to stand on his own. Falling into a fevered triangle with two other outcasts, Todd Spicer and Scott Schatz, Robin embarks on an explosive odyssey of sexual self-discovery that will take him beyond the spring-green lawns of suburbia, beyond the fraying fabric barely holding together his quickly unraveling family, and into a complex future, beyond the world of normal boys.
In The World Of Normal Boys, K.M. Soehnlein has created a dazzling gem of a debut novel in the tradition of Ordinary People and A Boys Own Story, one that sparkles with raw honesty, poetic beauty, wry insight, and a rare richness of emotion that reverberates long after the last page is read. It is a story about growing up and falling apart, of rebellion and acceptance, of unspoken lives and irreversible choices that are made.
"Late 1970s New Jersey is the backdrop for this gay coming-of-age novel by newcomer Soehnlein....The third-person present-tense narrative presents an amusingly detailed and largely accurate picture of life in the Jersey 'burbs. Although marred a bit by rather facile psychologizing, Robin's story is ultimately a moving romance. That romance is not that of a boy with another boy (or man) the clinical depictions of Robin's various sexual experiences are not particularly moving but of a boy with a city: the New York where Robin lived as a small child; the New York he visits with his mother on their 'City Days' throughout his childhood; the New York that remains, despite an ugly walk on its wild side, the city of Robin's dreams." Publishers Weekly
"Soehnlein makes the familiar strange....[T]his is a rich and unflinching book." Matthew Flamm, The New York Times Book Review
"Soehnlein's...characters are so engaging and his observations so acute, this potentially tired story is actually a welcome addition to the canon. It is also compulsively readable." Martin Wilson, Lambda Book Report
"Full of tension and suspense, Soehnlein's well-paced debut novel is a fresh look at one boy's sexual awakening in the 1970s and his journey to find a place where he can fit in." Booklist
"Even if you're not a child of the 70's, The World of Normal Boys will force you to relive the most painful moments of your adolescence. In the process you'll reaffirm your decision to be who you are now." Jeremy Quittner, The Advocate
About the Author
K.M. Soehnlein grew up in New Jersey. He has since lived in New York City, Tucson, and San Francisco, where he currently works as a freelance writer and plays clarinet with The Cubby Creatures. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and is the recipient of a Henfield Prize for fiction. His short stories have appeared in Modern Words and The James White Review. The World Of Normal Boys is his first novel.