Updated on May 19, 2015
29. ‘The Boy in the Book’ by Nathan Penlington
This book took me on a little adventure of my own. As I was reading, I came across a mention of The Great Diary Project, which reminded me that I have a little diary about 1940s Paris written by a Cornish schoolgirl. I got in touch with the Diary Project people and they agreed to give my found diary a good home, so I sent it off and now it’s part of their fascinating collection.
I wouldn’t be surprised if The Boy in the Book encouraged lots of people to have even more adventures like this.
The Boy in the Book is the true story of Nathan Penlington, an avid collector of everything, who bought the entire series of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books from eBay whilst he was in a post-break-up, living-with-parents lull.
As he started reading he discovered, written in the margins and on loose sheets of paper, the diary of the books’ previous owner: Terence Prendergast. Young Terence (now, presumably, grown up) was a self-conscious schoolboy who wrote about bullying and suicidal thoughts.
Thus began Penlington’s adventure to track down the now adult Terence and find out what his life is like now. What starts as a point of intrigue, however, quickly becomes an obsession and Penlington’s inability to let Terence go puts a strain on his relationship and even his sanity.
In fact, I found Penlington’s obsessiveness went too far at times. I’m sure the reader is supposed to find the book inspiring and a little laughable, but there were times when I thought Penlington really needed an intervention. Terence took over his life to such a crazy extent that it surely wasn’t healthy. (Penlington’s girlfriend, by the way, has the patience of a saint.)
Of course, in many ways the book was inspiring. Penlington met plenty of interesting characters along the way: the fairly woo-woo graphologist was a low point; meeting Choose Your Own Adventure’s creator, Edward Packard, was a real high point.
Penlington has some moments of clarity, however. In fact he doesn’t tire of saying that the whole thing might not be about Terence after all, but more about himself. Well, yes. Obviously. Still, this book is certainly a page turner and will probably hook you right through to its very satisfying ending.
“In order to live a full life I’ve got to learn to let things go, allow for the unknown, not be in control.”
If you liked my review, why not read the book and let me know what you think?
Thanks to Bookbridgr for my review copy.