Where have all the boys gone?
Down-to-earth Kelly is always the friend and never the girlfriend. But as her junior year of high school starts, Kelly is determined to finally reveal her true feelings for her long-time crush and good friend Hunter – that is, until the Boy Recession hits.
Over the past summer, an overwhelming number of male students have left Kelly and Hunter’s small high school class. Some were sent to private school and others moved away. Whatever the case, the sudden population shift has left the already small Julius P. Heil High in desperate shape. The football coach is recruiting chess champs for his team, the principal’s importing male exchange students to balance out school dances,and Hunter is about to become an unexpected heartthrob.
Content with his role as the guitar-strumming, class-skipping slacker, Hunter is unprepared to be the center of attention. Desperate coaches are recruiting him for sports teams, and the drama teacher casts him in the lead role of the school musical. Even the Spandexers, powerful popular girls in tight pants, are noticing Hunter in a new light – with a little work, he could have potential. He might even be boyfriend material…
In order to stand out from the crowd and win Hunter’s heart, Kelly needs a “stimulus package” in the form of cougar lessons from a senior girl who dates hot freshman boys and advice on the male mind from her Cosmo-addicted best friend, Aviva. As if dating wasn’t hard enough without a four-to-one ratio!
Meaney’s debut doesn’t come with fireworks or sparkles. It doesn’t have a swoony love interest nor does it have a love triangle that sends girls spinning into teams so and so. There are no deep dark secrets or childhood trauma that often characterizes contemporary novels. None of that in The Boy Recession. If I had to paint a picture of what the book is like, I would paint a quiet country afternoon, a large, green lawn, blue skies, sunshine. It’s a breath of fresh air, an escape. The main characters in the novel are not battling the world in the explicit ways of the other novels but they are still navigating adolescence and the shark ridden corridors of high schools.
I found myself intrigued by the premise of the novel. What happens when the cream de la creme in guy stock is removed from a school? Where does attention shift to? To the not-so-desirable guys who had previously been shunned by all. Hunter is a great character. He’s funny, smelly at times and real. And Kelly is a great counterpart. The book is told in alternating perspectives but rather than being abrupt, the shift is almost seamless. However, Kelly and Hunter do not sound alike. The voices are well defined. I also liked how, despite nothing epic happening, there’s a graceful flow to the novel that makes reading it extremely easy. The novel doesn’t ask much of you but it gives a lot in return. It is wickedly funny at times and it has some observations about human nature that will make you grin. I found the novel to be realistic in terms of dialogue and portrayal of people and events.
And I also appreciated how Meaney focused a lot of time on friendship. Especially on the friendship between the guys. I thought that was adorable. AND there are no mean girls in this novel, you guys! Well, there’s a semi-mean girl but really, she doesn’t count. There are cliques, yes, but nothing so polarized that there are factions and borders and different tables in the cafeteria. This alone made me like the book a lot more.
In conclusion, what this book has a solid, gentle story (yes, smelly guys and all) that will make you laugh, may make you think and will leave you smiling at the end. I recommend it.