Source: Review copy from publisher
Back Cover Description:
In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the son of Lindiwe Bishop's white neighbour, seventeen-year-old Ian McKenzie, is arrested for a terrible crime. A year later Ian returns home, the charges against him dropped. He is brash and boisterous, full of charm and swagger, and fascinating to fifteen-year-old Lindiwe. She accepts a ride from him one day, despite her mother's warnings, and something grows between them -- becoming stronger and stronger in a world that wants nothing more than to divide them.
A secret that Lindiwe keeps hidden, and which Ian discovers years later, ensures that their lives will be irrevocably entwined as their country crumbles around them.
Vividly evoking the traumatic history of a nation once brimming with promise, The Boy Next Door tells an engrossing, unpredictable story of love against the odds, and of the shadows cast by the past.
The Boy Next Door is an astonishing, brilliant debut novel about what it means to witness, to change, to love, and to remain whole when the world outside is falling apart.
The Boy Next Door is an engrossing novel that starts out as a mystery of sorts (did Ian really do it?) in which curiosity about her neighbor leads to friendship and then love. But it's not an easy love.
The writing style was a bit rambling at times, especially at the beginning when the story often sidetracked in time or focus. However, I didn't find this distracting and was able to follow what was going on. The author also primarily wrote in the present tense ("he says" instead of "he said"), but for once this didn't bother me at all.
The characters were complex and often hurting as they dealt with realistic problems. I came to care about them a great deal. The novel wasn't dark, but it was gritty and painfully honest. Bits about the violence of the war were briefly told in the story (but not in "blood-and-gut" detail).
There was some mention of church, church activities, etc., but this isn't a "Christian" book. Both Christians and non-Christians will enjoy it.
There was some slang and local terms that were not completely obvious from context nor explained (though most were explained much later), but understanding these words was not critical to understanding what was going on.
Ian (and occasionally others) used some cussing and swearing in his dialogue, so there was a minimal amount of bad language. There was unmarried, very non-graphic sex (in fact, sometimes I wasn't sure if that's what happened). I liked that there were realistic consequences to all of the characters' actions including sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book as well-written, fairly clean reading.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt from Chapter One
Part One: 1980s
Two days after I turned fourteen the son of our neighbor set his stepmother alight.
A week later the police came. I was reading Sue Barton, Senior Nurse on the veranda, and I was at the part when Dr. Bill Barry proposes to Sue Barton. Daddy was busy tinkering with the Cortina under the jacaranda tree. Mummy was in the bedroom trying on her Manyano outfit for the graduation ceremony that was going to take place at church, which would turn fifteen young women into fully fledged members of the congregation. Rosanna was helping her.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Bishop," I heard. "Sorry to disturb. We have come about next door."
The chief constable wiped his forehead with a tissue. "This heat is destroying us," he said, and from the veranda, I could see a wet dark patch on his shirt, which made it cling to his back.
It was midday and there wasn't a single cloud in the sky. Even though it was the end of January not one drop of rain had fallen in Bulawayo.
"This problem of no transport. Only walking these days for us. Ten kilometers and I am not so young anymore, not like these calves." He pointed at the other two policemen who were standing near the Cortina at attention.
Daddy said something about bulls, which made the chief constable laugh while the calves remained very rigid and serious.
Most of the brand-new police cars donated by Britain were in scrap yards; the police force had been statistically shown to have the most dangerous drivers in Zimbabwe. In fact, the chief constable, who had only recently been promoted after his white superior had tendered his resignation, had been responsible for a recent smashup against an electricity pole; Daddy hinted that he was most likely driving without a valid licence.
"Are you finding petrol?" the chief constable asked, eyeing the two policemen who sprung forwards. It looked like he had jerked them into motion with string.
"A little only," Daddy replied as he gently put down the bonnet. "Enough to go to the office and back."
I knew that he was exaggerating; he didn't want the chief constable to feel free to ask him for transport.
Read more of chapter one.