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Of a Boy (Popular Penguins)

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  794 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
The year is 1977, and Adrian is nine. He lives with his gran and his uncle Rory; his best friend is Clinton Tull. He loves to draw and he wants a dog; he's afraid of quicksand and self-combustion. Adrian watches his suburban world, but there is much he cannot understand. He does not, for instance, know why three neighbourhood children might set out to buy ice-cream and nev ...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published June 29th 2009 by Penguin Group (Australia) (first published October 19th 2000)
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Feb 26, 2015 Mish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mish by: Regina
Exceptional! One of those books you need to experience for yourself to feel it’s magic working itself into your skin. Listening to it on audiobook, I was spellbound by Hartnett’s rich lyrical phrases, and Bower’s deep compassionate voice. These two were a match made in heaven.

I don’t believe I’ve ever come across someone like Sonya Hartnett that is so attuned to a young child’s mind, their fears and emotions and to be able express it so accurately on paper. Of A Boy highlights what constant rej
☼♄Jülie 

This story relates an unsettling view of life through the eyes of nine year old Adrian, who has been sent to live with his grandmother because his mother can't, and his father won't look after him.
Adrian is a good boy who is no trouble at all to anyone, he is quiet and makes no fuss about anything, he just looks after himself.
Although he doesn't understand why his father is giving him away, he knows the reason, because he overheard the conversation with his grandmother and heard his father say i
Feb 19, 2015 Regina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of A Boy impressed me just as much, if not more, the second time around.

Sonya Hartnett is a brilliant storyteller. Despite the story being set in 1977 it still reminded me of my childhood in the 80's. I'm sure it would easily transcend to other generations as well. Childhood memories and feelings come flooding back when reading this novel.

Of A Boy reads easily, don't mistake that to mean it is simple though. This novel's punch has a powerful impact.

Sonya Hartnett has a way with descriptions that
Shirley Marr
Jun 07, 2011 Shirley Marr rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aussie-ya
I am debating whether to give this book a three or a four. I really like the idea of the juxtaposition about a suburb's obsession with three children who have gone missing - through the eyes of a child who nobody seems to want.

On one hand, Hartnett's prose at the best of times can be so achingly acute and drive an emotion straight home: "She watches him a minute, thinking it is strange - strange how love coexists with hate, how they render one another mute, how the swilling to them together mak
Feb 25, 2016 Jelena rated it really liked it
one of the saddest books I've read in a long, long time
Jan 08, 2012 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have never read such a gloomy book. It was 100% sadness. I have also never read such a well written book. Although I hated the story, I didn't stop reading it because it was so beautifully crafted.

1 star for the story
5 stars for the writing.
Jul 11, 2016 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
Also published under the title 'Of A Boy'.
This slight volume packs a huge emotional punch, capturing in exquisite detail what it is like to be a sensitive, lonely boy of nine.

Adrian lives with his grandmother and reclusive uncle after he was removed from the care of his mother and abandoned by his father. All Adrian really wants is to draw, and to have a dog to love and befriend. School is made bearable through his one friend, Clinton Tull. The description of his home, and of Mrs Tull, is like
Sep 15, 2009 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2010 Nora rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Another book for the DO NOT READ shelf. I've read a couple of books lately from what I am calling the "oversensitive child" genre. It must come from adults having too much therapy or something. And from not having any real children. Can you say "Cipher in the Snow," only beautifully written? Beautiful writing is no excuse for morose, completely hopeless, depressing content. Sorry! but I've seen real children suffer excruciatingly and survive--this is not real, it's just depressing. Put down the ...more
Mar 08, 2011 Lesley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Another book that makes you want to know what is going on and kept me reading, but solves nothing in the end and left me quite confused. Reminds me of a book I would have to read for an English class and then write essays that debated what we thought.
Emily Just Emily*~*
Um. OK. So, I read this book thinking that my 10 year old would be able to read it, just trying it out first....And it was OK. Until the last 2 chapters. Wasn't expecting sudden death from drowning in the end. How horrible....Otherwise, the story was written very well. But not for my 10 year old.
Simone Guest
Of a Boy is a moving tale of a boy trying to make sense of his world. One word describes this book for me – sadness. I read this book quite some time ago and when I began to write this I had a chance to go back and back and re-read this fabulous book. A few pages in and I quickly remembered the pure pleasure of reading this five star novel.

The book is set in 1977 and tells the story of Adrian McPhee, abandoned by his parents and left with his grandmother and uncle. Adrian is a shy boy scared of
Aug 04, 2014 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Firstly if you are looking for a happy pick me up book I would recommend staying clear of this one. Secondly is there a reason my copy is called 'Of A Boy'? Anyway I really related to Adrian, probably a lot better than I do to lots of people in my own age group and timeline. The feeling of being a non-entity is scary for a child.
I found this book to be an easy read - gut wrenching yes - but still worth it. It's very similar in story to the sad tale of the Beaumont Children taken from an Adelaide
Nov 02, 2015 Teena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sonia Hartnett is a brilliant Australian writer. Known as a children's author, she has transitioned seamlessly into very adult fiction. Of A Boy seems simple to begin with. In the 1960s, three children leave home for a quick trip to the local shop but disappear. In the same city, 9 year old Adrian has been abandoned by his parents and lives with his resentful grandmother and uncle. Adrian is a sensitive boy, constantly bullied at school and overly affected by events around him. Hartnett lets the ...more
Jun 04, 2011 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think Hartnett explores the beauty in hopelessness. I don't have another way to explain how she writes the most amazing descriptions, ones that make me feel and smell and even taste images of my past, good memories...and still leaves me completely devastated. I read and reread the paragraph of Adrian touching the cherub - could almost feel it myself (page 31), and his experience in the park, with the green grass (pg 46) reminded me of the Green Grass where we played as children. It was near an ...more
Amazing depth and description for a novel billed as a teen read.

Short but very fulfilling. Far more about Adrian's everyday experiences than about the missing children. They are a backdrop, perhaps emphasising that it can feel like there are worse things that can happen than disappearing. Or that one can disappear while still being present in body.

Hartnett skillfully and painfully portrays the harsh realities of school life, shifting friendships, the outsider perspective. She shows how children
Apr 17, 2012 Dee-Ann rated it it was amazing
What a range of emotions going through this simple book, and it ended with me thinking WTF (and I never swear!). The ending blew me away, I was not expecting it, but as harsh as it was, it was a plausible ending. I enjoyed reminiscing parts of my childhood along with Adrian ... I remember my first slinky, Young Doctors on television and the school yard. I would perhaps have liked a little bit more after the end, maybe!
Jul 25, 2011 Jodie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The copy I have is titled Of A Boy and I am still haunted by this book. Sonya Hartnett is masterful with words and there are so many quotes that will stay with me, somehow the author puts a few words together and they then create this physical reaction when you read them - amazing. It touches on many raw nerves as a parent and many memories as a child.
Jul 09, 2008 Summer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, 2008
Holy moly. This might be one of the more depressing books I've ever read. Yes, it's beautiful, and yes, Hartnett paints a genuine portrait of loss in all its forms, but damn. I'm glad I read this, but I don't think I'll be able to read it again until I'm in a better mood.
Apr 16, 2014 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nope. I did not like the main character, and I did not like the main character's friend. It was a struggle to get through this book, and the ending was so bad I wish I hadn't struggled through it.
Jan 25, 2016 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting thriller with a twist at the end that took me by surprise.
Lauren Alise Schultz
After reading Sonya Hartnett’s mythical The Ghost’s Child, I didn’t know quite what to expect when I began reading her more “realistic” novel What the Birds See. Although it lacks the more fantastic elements found in The Ghost’s Child, What the Birds See actually has a fair bit in common with the former; no matter what her subject matter, Hartnett’s prose is lyrical and her tone extremely somber. I cannot stress the splendor and originality of Hartnett’s metaphors, in fact. This is a beautiful n ...more
Emma Balkin
Jan 08, 2017 Emma Balkin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books
Sonya Hartnett's writing is so clear and evocative. I enjoyed the simplicity of this books and the flawed characters. An audiobook.
Darrell Bevan-ridge
Feb 28, 2017 Darrell Bevan-ridge rated it really liked it
like if u cried :'(
Natalie McPhee
Feb 25, 2017 Natalie McPhee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Potentially the most depressing book I've ever read. #1sentencereview
Kathleen Hagen
Of a Boy, by Sonya Hartnett, narrated by Humphrey Bowers, produced by Bolinda Audio, downloaded from

This is a book taking place in Australia written by an Australian author. It is classified as a young adult or children’s book. Well, this is a children’s book in the same way that Andersen’s and Grimm’s Fairy Tales were children stories. Adrian was seven years old and lived with his grandmother. His own mother had abandoned him and took drugs. His mother’s sister wanted nothing to do
My Inner Shelf
L’histoire débute par la disparition inexpliquée de 3 enfants, avant de se recentrer sur Adrian, petit garçon timide élevé par sa grand-mère. Le personnage d’Adrian est terriblement attachant, on ne peut que ressentir une profonde empathie à son égard. Se sentant mal aimé, abandonné de tous, Adrian est un enfant digne mais solitaire, préférant la solitude à la mauvaise compagnie. La grand-mère, qu’il surnomme Grand-Monstre, illustre l’un des nombreuses peurs et angoisses d’Adam. Sa grand-mère, v ...more
This is a strange book... and I think I don't get Sonya Hartnett's books. I wish they were quirky and odd but there's something about them I don't quite get. This is the second book of hers that I read and it is just as weird (though in a different way than The Ghost's Child ); it is depressing and leaves me feeling bereft somehow. Makes me wonder why she wrote it...

Maybe I find the world around me depressing and sad enough that I don't also want to read about abandoned and lonely children who
Nov 12, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story was striking for a number of reasons. It was set in 1977, which was a notable year for me personally. I was roughly the same age in 1977 as the protagonist, and what he felt, said and did took me right back to my own childhood. Slinky, chickadees, ponchos, mail order Woodland Animal figurines, precious Royal Doulton - oh, what memories! This story felt so real; the feelings of vulnerability and insecurity in the children broke my heart. Likewise the ending, yet it felt authentic (to m ...more
Sep 09, 2011 Cate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star-books
I was completely caught up in this story & could not put it down - read it in one sitting. Thought it was fantastically written and the air of impending doom throughout was brilliantly done. I'd add this into what I term "Australian Gothic" only instead of the "the bush" as the sinister external setting/character, this is suburbia - the schoolyard, home, the streets & park take on a dreadful aspect. Adrian is heartbreaking in his lonliness & how abandoned he is by the adults in his l ...more
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UK and US title 1 6 Apr 17, 2009 12:10AM  
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Sonya Hartnett (also works under the pseudonym Cameron S. Redfern) is, or was, something of an Australian child prodigy author. She wrote her first novel at the age of thirteen, and had it published at fifteen. Her books have also been published in Europe and North America. Her novels have been published traditionally as young adult fiction, but her writing often crosses the divide and is also en ...more
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“'s stupid to be that way, so easily hurt; it's better to be like a plank of wood, an emotional mule. It's best not to feel, to have your nerve endings cauterized.” 4 likes
“But what she feels is sometimes hard to express...Much of what is best in her is warped on the voyage from within to without.” 1 likes
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