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The Characters and Themes of About a Boy by Nick Hornby

About a Boy Book Report

Are you looking for a book that is funny, touching, and insightful at the same time? If so, you might want to check out About a Boy by Nick Hornby, a novel that explores the meaning of growing up and finding happiness in an imperfect world. In this article, I will give you a summary and analysis of the book, as well as an evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses. I will also provide some questions for further discussion at the end.

about a boy book report


About a Boy is a modern novel set in London in 1993. It is told from two different points of view, although it is written in the third person. The first point of view is through the eyes of Marcus, a 12-year-old boy who is considered to be "uncool" by other children, and who lives with his mother, Fiona. Marcus used to live in Cambridge when his parents were still together, but after they split up, his dad remained in Cambridge while Marcus and Fiona moved to London to start a new life. Marcus has a lot of responsibilities for a young boy, since his mum suffers from depression and often finds it difficult to cope with life.

The second point of view is through the eyes of Will, a 36-year-old single man who considers himself to be "cool". Will is independently wealthy, because his father wrote a famous Christmas song years ago, and Will receives a lot of money in royalties. Will has no responsibilities in fact he runs away at the first sign of commitment or responsibility. While his friends are marrying and having children, Will continues to live like a teenager and feels sorry for his friends because he thinks that they have lost their freedom.

Through his two main characters, Nick Hornby investigates how we mature, and how we react to the problems which life throws at us. In effect, Marcus has grown up too fast and needs to learn how to be a child, whereas Will has never grown up and needs to learn how to be an adult! The novel was a number-one bestseller in the United Kingdom at the time of publication. In 2002, the novel was made into a film starring Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult.

Summary of the book

Marcus and Will meet at a picnic organized by SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together), a support group for single parents. Will has joined SPAT pretending to be a single father of a two-year-old son named Ned, hoping to meet attractive single mothers. He is interested in Suzie, who is looking after Marcus for the day while Fiona is at home. Marcus does not like Will at first, but when Marcus accidentally kills a duck by throwing a bread loaf at it, Will makes up an excuse that saves Marcus from getting into trouble.

When they arrive at Marcus's house, they find Fiona unconscious on the couch after taking an overdose of pills. They call an ambulance and Fiona survives, but Marcus is terrified that she might try to kill herself again. He decides that she needs a boyfriend to make her happy, and that Will is a good candidate. He starts visiting Will regularly, even though Will is not interested in Fiona or in being friends with Marcus.

Will and Marcus gradually develop a bond, as they spend time together watching TV, listening to music, and talking. Will buys Marcus a pair of trendy sneakers to help him fit in at school, where he is bullied and ostracized by his classmates. He also introduces him to Ellie, a rebellious 15-year-old girl who likes the same music as Marcus and defends him from the bullies. Marcus develops a crush on Ellie, but she only sees him as a friend.

Meanwhile, Will meets Rachel, a single mother of a 12-year-old boy named Ali. He falls in love with her, but he lies to her about having a son. He also lets her believe that Marcus is his son, and that Fiona is his ex-wife. He enjoys spending time with Rachel and Ali, and he starts to feel like part of a family. However, his lies are exposed when Fiona confronts him about his relationship with Rachel, and when Marcus tells Rachel the truth. Rachel breaks up with Will, feeling betrayed and disgusted by his deception.

Marcus is also angry with Will for lying to him and to Rachel. He feels that Will has let him down, and that he has no one to rely on. He decides to sing a song at the school talent show, hoping to cheer up his mum and impress Ellie. The song is "Killing Me Softly", which Fiona used to sing to him when he was little. However, the song is a disaster, as Marcus sings out of tune and gets laughed at by the whole school. Will comes to the rescue, joining Marcus on stage and pretending to be a backup singer. He manages to turn the situation into a joke, and Marcus is grateful for his support.

Will realizes that he cares about Marcus and Fiona, and that he wants to be with Rachel. He apologizes to them for lying, and asks for their forgiveness. He also confesses his feelings to Rachel, and tells her that he has changed because of her and Marcus. Rachel agrees to give him another chance, and they get back together. Marcus is happy for Will and Rachel, and he also reconciles with Ellie, who kisses him on the cheek. Fiona recovers from her depression, and she thanks Will for being a friend to Marcus.

Analysis of the book

About a Boy is a novel that explores the concept of maturity in different ways. The title of the book suggests that it is about one boy, but it could also refer to both Marcus and Will, who are both boys in different stages of their lives. Marcus is a boy who has to deal with adult problems, such as his mother's suicide attempt, his parents' divorce, and his social isolation at school. He has no friends his own age, and he does not know how to have fun or express himself. He is mature beyond his years, but he also lacks the confidence and joy of childhood.

Will is a boy who refuses to deal with adult problems, such as responsibility, commitment, and honesty. He has no friends or family who care about him, and he does not care about anyone else either. He lives a superficial and selfish life, avoiding any emotional attachment or challenge. He is immature beyond his years, but he also lacks the wisdom and satisfaction of adulthood.

The novel shows how Marcus and Will influence each other in positive ways. Marcus teaches Will how to be more responsible, caring, and honest. He makes Will realize that there is more to life than money and pleasure, and that being part of a family can be rewarding and fulfilling. Will teaches Marcus how to be more confident, relaxed, and happy. He makes Marcus realize that there is more to life than worry and sadness, and that being yourself can be liberating and fun.

The novel also explores the role of family and friends in shaping our identity and happiness. The novel portrays different types of families: Marcus's broken family with his depressed mother and absent father; Will's dysfunctional family with his dead father and distant mother; Rachel's blended family with her son from a previous relationship; Ellie's abusive family with her alcoholic father and submissive mother; Suzie's conventional family with her husband and daughter; SPAT's alternative family with its single parents supporting each other.

The novel shows how family can be both a source of love and support, as well as a source of pain and conflict. The novel also shows how friends can be like family, providing companionship and guidance when needed. The novel suggests that family and friends are essential for our well-being, as they help us cope with our problems and celebrate our achievements.

Evaluation of the book

About a Boy is a book that has many strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths of the book is its realistic and relatable portrayal of the characters and their situations. The book shows how ordinary people struggle with everyday problems, such as loneliness, depression, divorce, bullying, and love. The book also shows how people can change and grow through their interactions with others, and how they can find happiness in unexpected places. The book makes the reader empathize with the characters and their emotions, and root for their success.

Another strength of the book is its humorous and witty style. The book uses a lot of irony and sarcasm to poke fun at the absurdities and contradictions of modern life. The book also uses a lot of pop culture references and slang to create a lively and engaging tone. The book makes the reader laugh and smile at the antics and dialogues of the characters, and appreciate their sense of humor.

One of the weaknesses of the book is its predictable and clichéd plot. The book follows a typical formula of a romantic comedy, where two opposites attract, face some obstacles, break up, and then get back together. The book also relies on some stereotypes and tropes, such as the cool guy who falls for the nerdy girl, the rebellious teenager who has a soft spot for the younger kid, the depressed mother who finds hope in her son's friend, and so on. The book does not offer much originality or surprise in its story development.

Another weakness of the book is its superficial and shallow treatment of some serious issues. The book touches on some topics that are relevant and important, such as mental health, suicide, family violence, and social exclusion. However, the book does not explore these topics in depth or with sensitivity. The book often makes light of these issues or glosses over them quickly. The book does not challenge or provoke the reader to think critically or empathetically about these issues.


About a Boy is a book that delivers a message of hope and optimism in a dark and cynical world. The book shows how two boys who are different in age, personality, and background can become friends and help each other grow and mature. The book shows how family and friends are essential for our well-being, as they provide us with love, support, and guidance. The book also shows how humor and irony can be effective tools to cope with our problems and enjoy our lives.

The book relates to real life in many ways, as it reflects the social and cultural realities of the 1990s. The book depicts the consumerist and materialistic lifestyle of Will, who represents the generation that grew up in the 1980s. The book also depicts the alternative and rebellious lifestyle of Ellie, who represents the generation that grew up in the 1990s. The book also depicts the challenges and opportunities that single parents face in raising their children.

The book raises some questions for further discussion, such as:

  • What does it mean to be mature? How do we measure maturity?

  • How do we balance our individual needs with our social obligations?

  • How do we deal with depression and suicidal thoughts? How can we help others who are suffering from them?

  • How do we cope with bullying and peer pressure? How can we stand up for ourselves and others?

  • How do we define family? What makes a family happy?


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