The Boy Is Back, by Meg Cabot. William Morris. 368 pages. Trade paperback $15.99.
This is the fourth book in Ms. Cabot’s “Boy” series, which began in 2002 with “The Boy Next Door.” It is a stand-alone novel. This best-selling author, best known for “The Princess Diaries,” has mastered a clever technique that will be half the fun of the book for most readers.
The story is told through electronic media. The characters’ interactions and solo meditations are fashioned as emails, text messages, Facebook postings, chat room conversations, online news and reviews, e-journaling, and other such signs of the times. Graphic design distinguishes the mode; that is, what you see on the page mirrors what you’d see on your computer, tablet, or smart phone.
Ms. Cabot provides superb feats of characterization through manipulating how her characters reveal themselves and hide themes through these technological means of expression. Some will find this method engaging; others will be put off by it. I entered this world somewhat skeptical, but after 30-40 pages I found myself enjoying both the technique and what it revealed.
The story involves Reed Stewart’s return to his hometown of Bloomville, Indiana after ten years on the professional golf circuit. He had several years of great success, but his game has crumbled a bit of late. What brings him back to Bloomville is his aging parents’ peculiar and somewhat dangerous behavior as reported (via emails, of course) by Reed’s relatives and even in the town’s newspaper.
The old man tried to pay a restaurant bill with a stamp from his collection that was worth only a small fraction of the bill. Both parents have long been hoarders, overcrowding their house that has fallen in to disrepair. Judge Stewart has a huge collection of gavels and useless stacks of newspapers. His wife Connie is just as zany. They don’t seem able to take care of themselves.
Who ya gonna call? Becky Flowers. That is if Reed has has the courage to be back in the presence of the young woman he more or less abandoned after their senior prom mishap. Yes, conveniently enough for the Stewart family, Becky has established a successful senior-relocation business. It’s called Moving Up! Consulting LLC.
The plot moves along two rails: can anything save the dysfunctional Stewart family, and can Becky and Reed find their way back into each other’s arms and futures. The answer is “yes” in both cases, but the outcomes are in doubt through most of the novel. There are so many obstacles to be overcome.
Except for Reed, the Stewart children have been users who cannot thrive on their own. Older brother Marshall runs a marginal real estate business with one unpromising listing, and sister Trimble has been exploiting her father’s generosity in making her a partner in the law firm he set up after retiring from his judgeship. In fact, she’s done worse than that. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 4, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 5 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Boy Is Back