Obtained: Penguin Random House, ARC
Publish date: May 12, 2015
I was told that Boo was like a mix of Lord of the Flies and The Lovely Bones, the latter of which I haven’t read yet. But it was the summary that had me hooked. You know how there are those books that you know you’re going to love before you even start reading them? Boo was one of those books for me.
Boo tells the story of thirteen-year-old Oliver (who is also known as “Boo” because he is so pale), who has been shot in the back at his locker and goes to heaven. Another boy involved in the school shooting, Johnny, meets Oliver in heaven and the two of them together try to solve the mystery of who it was that killed them.
There were a few things that I truly loved about this novel, deeming it a work of genius for me. First, the writing was very well done. Oliver is a really dorky character (why else am I posting this review during #GEEKMONTH?) who needs a voice to match, and I could almost hear him in my head. Smith developed a dynamic character to lead his story. I also liked that there was no romance subplot in this book; Smith didn’t sacrifice his story to try and make Oliver more accessible (like many authors tend to do nowadays); he stayed true to his character and wrote a compelling story without someone falling in love.
The final thing that I really found amazing about this book is that, although the entire book takes place in heaven, Smith doesn’t make it about religion. As an atheist, I feel distanced and honestly left out whenever an author begins talking about God. But at the beginning of the novel, Oliver explains that he will replace the phrase “God” with “Zig” in his story, because Zig is different than the God represented in western culture. If the word “God” had been on every page of this book, it would have felt preachy and lost a lot of readers, but I find that by calling him Zig, it took away the factor of religion in a story about heaven.
To me, Boo isn’t about religion; it’s about bullying, making friends, coming of age, depression, suicide, but above all else, Boo is a story about realizing your potential and how you can change the world for others, and also for yourself.