Teenager Max Walker's life appears to be perfect: he is attractive, exceptionally intelligent and popular, his parents are both successful lawyers. But when Max was born with identical male and female chromosomes, his parents chose to raise him as a boy and help him to keep his secret. A devastating betrayal by a friend forces Max and his family to begin dissecting the decisions they have made in the past while the impact of increasingly important decisions threaten to destroy Max's carefully designed life.
Golden Boy is told in alternating points of view, cycling between the people closest to Max. Each of the narrators gives readers a different lens to view the incredibly difficult choices that have had to be made throughout his life. While Karen wants nothing more than a happy, "normal" life for her son, the simple wish of many mothers, Steve can't shake the feeling that none of these vital choices have been theirs to make. The voices of Max's younger brother and love interest remind us that humanity, not gender, lies at the core of relationships. And trying to anchor Max while forces attempt to pull him in opposite directions, is local doctor Archie, a refreshing tone of level-headed reason.
With a family so determined to give him a normal life that they never discuss anything about his childhood, Max's life is designed around secrets. When caught in a horrific situation, keeping secrets is understandably Max's first reaction. As the consequences begin to snowball, it is Max's honest, confused and enraged voice that breaks my heart.
"When you think about it, all nouns are also definitions. The word 'it' and the word 'normal' spin around in my mind, like opposite fates."
But Abigail Tarttelin's voice is the one that makes me hopeful. While I'm not idealistic enough to expect a book to change society overnight, Golden Boy certainly feels timely. She has created a character that readers can truly empathize with, which has the potential to make even the most reluctant reconsider their prejudices or assumptions.