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The World of Normal Boys (The World of Normal Boys #1)

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,872 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
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 ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 2000)
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Posted at Shelf Inflicted

I've read lots of coming-of-age stories, but none have dredged up as many sweet and painful memories as this one has. The author has done an amazing job bringing the 70's to life and creating a character that is so believable and so easy to identify and connect with.

Robin MacKenzie is 13 years old and living in a New Jersey suburb with his parents, brother and sister. In many ways he is a typical teenager, wanting to make friends, fit in, and be “cool”. Though Robin is
Jul 01, 2016 Kyle rated it it was amazing
The World of Normal Boys is the coming of age story of Robin, a 13 year old boy growing up in a New Jersey suburb. He finds himself struggling to fit into the world of normal boys. PE class, sports, normal rough housing that boys do, talking about girls. It just doesn't feel right to him. How is he suppose to fit into that world.

First, this is a great book and I simply could not put it down. It's beautifully written and is VERY powerful. But a warning, it's a difficult read. The story is not ab
Loren Olson
Nov 20, 2010 Loren Olson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can’t say that I enjoyed “The World of Normal Boys” but I loved it. Having grown up in the same era – alright, somewhat before – and not having come out until I was forty, the ambivalence and social constrictions felt by Robin and his sexual partners, Todd and Scott, were all very familiar. From my perspective as a psychiatrist, the exaggerated dysfunction of Robin’s family following the accident that injured Robin’s brother, Jackson, were all very real.

Robin’s magical dream of escape to the p
Aug 15, 2010 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay-fiction
This coming out novel set in the late 1970s is for me a remembrance of things past. It is about Robin, a 13 y/o boy's gay sexual awakening. It is about risk, guilt, family matters, redemption, rebellion... The plot is interesting, the characters well drawn, the prose flowing. One will surely recognize his own feelings, actions and concerns at that age in this book's characters.

Coming out, coming of age books have become legion. This is one of the best I have read. A very telling contrast is bet
Oct 01, 2009 Ted rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ages 14 and up
Shelves: gay-fiction
I first read “The World of Normal Boys” last year, and I liked it a lot. Upon re-reading it, I agree that it’s kind of depressing, unsettling, but also realistic. Remember that this is set in the 1970s. How much did your average gay 13yo then know about Stonewall, for instance?

I can easily imagine a young 1970s boy who knows he attracted to boys, is consumed with guilt on multiple fronts, has virtually no positive role models, jerks off a lot, and gets slapped around by everybody. But does this
Suki Fleet
One of the first titles that inspired me to write YA/Coming of Age fiction. A small piece of perfection.

Suki Fleet
Jun 30, 2007 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, fiction
I found this book at a friends of the library sale. I thought it looked interesting, but I was not prepared for the intensity level or even just the premise of the story at all. It's a very well-written, emotional tale that, I would think, accurately portrays how tangled life as an adolescent boy would be, particularly an adolescent boy who is examining his own sexuality, let alone the other issues he is facing. Very provocative.
Aug 15, 2010 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay-fiction
I loved this book. It genuinely captures the era and sets a tone. It also captures the intense sexual confusion that happens to a teen going through perhaps the most turbulent time of his life. I felt tremendous sympathy for the main character. This is one of the best coming of age stories I've read.
Eric Brown
May 07, 2016 Eric Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish we'd had more books like this when I was coming of age, which happened at pretty much the same time as this novel. The author captured the feeling of that time so well I wished I'd grown up on the East Coast. Still, it was a little hard to believe that the protagonist was only 13... but maybe things happen earlier in New Jersey. Which is not to depreciate the quality of this book. The style, the character development and also the them were so well accomplished, I felt a hole when it final ...more
May 02, 2011 Nathaniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I almost couldn't set this down -- it's like a wonderful lost 1970s coming of age miniseries (for HBO)
Oct 02, 2009 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 27, 2009 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The World of Normal Boys really took me by surprise. It's been a long time since I've read a novel in which I really cared about the main character and couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. It starts off promising and then BAM! about 60 pages in an unexpected event occurs which causes the novel to do a 180, veering off onto a different trajectory. At first I didn't know whether or not I was going to like the direction it took but by the time I reach page 100 or so, the novel hits its ...more
John Eakin
Dec 11, 2011 John Eakin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I found this to be a very interesting and heart wrenching book at the same time. The authors grasp of what it is like to struggle with the knowledge of being different from other boys is extremely realistic. The main character wrestles with many of the same feelings that I, and others have dealt with during the coming of age period; that which seems to come so naturally to straight boys, yet seems to leave a gay boy lost in adolescence. It brought me back to my teenage years although it takes pl ...more
Feb 02, 2015 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a deeply emotional book. I felt the protagonist's anger and frustration at feeling out of place compared to his obnoxious, hostile peers and the hostile, clueless, useless adults in his life. There were times when I found myself hoping for a much more violent resolution than what we saw, just to release the frustration.

Every character in this book is deeply flawed, but most of them seem realistic. Just about the only character who is likable at the end (besides the protagonist) is littl
Gene Rios
Feb 11, 2014 Gene Rios rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I plan to search for more novels by this gentleman. His narrative hooks you gradually, almost like you're caught unknowingly in the web of his words. I was most-impressed with his ability to embody the innocence of 13-year old boy and his collapsing world. Like Faulkner, he does not flinch in his imagery where most writers would, and I applaud that daring. Great, great...and equally-heartbreaking book.
Menglong Youk
Actually, I give it 4.5 stars. I've just read several coming-of-age books. I cannot say that this book is one of my favorite; however, I undoubtedly can say that I enjoyed reading it. The characters in the story are easily to catch up with, which makes the progress of reading go smoothly. What's more, most of the plots in the story are not boring or too complicated to understand.
Peter Quesnel
Jul 16, 2015 Peter Quesnel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An engaging read of a devastating story of family that ultimately falls apart after a grisly accident. But, it is mostly the story of of a boy coming to terms with who he is in the world and what path he will follow. Entertaining, but full of pain, The World of Normal Boys offers no easy solutions for the main character and never sugarcoats.
Brian Centrone
Jan 03, 2008 Brian Centrone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I bought this book when it first came out and I loved it. I was to connect with the main chacter right away. I think it is one of the best gay fiction novels of all time. It's one of those novels anyone can read. I even have a nice e-mail exchange with the author!
David Jay
Sep 18, 2007 David Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sweet and sad coming of age story of Robin Mackenzie. He is a gay high school freshman in 1979, living in suburban New Jersey, dealing with first love, first experiences with sex and with drugs, family falling apart. Very moving.
Jason White
Apr 01, 2015 Jason White rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Excellent emotional read!
Sep 06, 2015 Lucas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"When people who aren't normal try to make their lives normal it doesn work."

Los libros "coming of age" son generalmente interesantes. Desde Salinger hasta Davif Mitchell crearon increíbles historias, sutiles y a la vez épicas en su campo que muestran el interior de un niño, de un adolescente, de un adulto. Este libro es uno de esos, en donde vemos el viaje interior de un niño, el viaje que pasa desde el odio, el sexo, la indiferencia y la muerte.

La historia de Robin es dramática. La historia
Onion Budgie
Greenlawn, the town in which this tale is set, contains a slew of difficult characters: teen bullies, abusive/neglectful parents, druggies, drunks and jerks. And then there's Robin, the 13-yr-old protagonist, who is attempting to come to terms with the mess that is his life. He is surrounded by tragedy and negative influences, and so in typical teenage fashion he charges headlong into his own brand of self-destruction, with little care for his crumbling family. And this is one of the problems wi ...more
Tex Reader
4.0 of 5 stars – Well-Written, Moving, Realistic Picture of a Young Gay Teen

I like gay YA and coming of age stories, and this is one of the best ones I’ve read. It realistically and movingly captured what I would guess most people feel about their early adolescence – it transported me back in time to my own early teenage years of self-doubt, insecurities, awkwardness, self-discovery, and sexual awakening.

It also transported me back to the late 70s. I enjoyed all the references to the songs, TV,
Il più bel romanzo di formazione e a tematica gay che ho letto. Una perla in mezzo a tanta spazzatura.
Una scrittura magistrale, scorrevole, che rapisce. L'ho letto in un colpo solo: non potevo farne a meno. Straordinaria non solo la caratterizzazione del protagonista, giovane adolescente che si sente diverso, con tutte le sue turbe e i suoi problemi ad accertarsi e farsi accettare, ma anche quella degli altri personaggi. A cominciare dai membri della sua famiglia, dalle loro reazioni sempre più
Steve Woods
I really enjoyed this book. Beautifully written, the voice of Robin, definitely not a "normal boy" dealing with his unfolding realization that this is so for him. Set in a context of great stress in his family as his brother is dying as a result of an accident in which Robin has played a part it explores the passage from the violet light of childhood into the grittiness of life with all its accomapanying emotions, and vagaries. Life where no one is what they present and the hidden is always as p ...more
Aug 25, 2008 Mitch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
One of my all time favorite books, and IMO, the BEST coming of age novel about gay teenage boys. I have never read a book that was so honest about the experiences 13 and 14 year old boys - gay and straight - go through as their hormones start to kick in. Sex becomes front of mind, constantly, the body changes rapidly, and everything is confusing.

There are multiple threads to the story, but it is Robin's story as he deals with his little brothers severe injury and watches his family unravel whil
Aug 29, 2014 JLib rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good read, and really made me feel like I was getting it straight from the main character. I felt all the angst, sadness & hope that was put out there; and wanting nothing butpositives made me want to keep reading all the more. Definitely a must to help put perspective on sibling dynamics, its peking order, and parenting each child (should you have more than one) as an individual.
Jul 17, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
I loved this book.. It was amazing. It reminds me of Neil from Mysterious Skin, in a way. I love reading about LGBT book that are based in the 70s - 90s. One of my most favorite books, the fact it was in the 70s, but written in a way that still fits modern society today. I loved the relationship between Scott and Robin. It was touching, especially at the end. This is an excellent book.
May 13, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An honest, unflinching coming-of-age tale about a teenage, gay male in the suburbs of New Jersey in the late 1970's. Tragedy strikes his family just as he is, sexually, beginning to discover himself, setting off a great train of further events in his life and his family members' lives. The story is well told and truthful, the narrative well laid out. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel, and am interested in reading (someday) its sequel, "Robin and Ruby".
I just have to say a few simple things that are on my mind: I wasn't entirely fond of the fact that the book is narrated in third person, but I got used to it, but it was harder to read through or relate, I think. I also found it to be kind of predictable throughout the book. That doesn't mean it's a terrible thing but it did take away a lot of the thrill and anticipation. And last thing- I HATED the ending. I think I am used to happy happy endings and this is only a smidge happy, and mostly fru ...more
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K.M. Soehnlein is the author of the new novel ROBIN AND RUBY, the story of a brother and sister during one eventful weekend in the summer of 1985. The novel follows the main characters from Soehnlein's debut, THE WORLD OF NORMAL BOYS, winner of the Lambda Award for Gay Men's Fiction. Soehnlein's novel YOU CAN SAY YOU KNEW ME WHEN, was praised by The L.A. Times's Regina Marler as "a dense, enjoyabl ...more
More about K.M. Soehnlein...

Other Books in the Series

The World of Normal Boys (2 books)
  • Robin and Ruby

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