by Julie HaleFebruary, 2007
The Every Boy
When Henry Every dies at the age of 15, he leaves a diary that spans five years, with entries composed on graph paper (2,600 pages, to be exact). This idiosyncratic record of his daily existence gives Henry's mother and father, Hannah and Harlan Every, new insight into the strange interior life of their son, who, like most teens, distanced himself from his parents. The pages of Henry's journal provide the basis of this ingenious debut novel from Shapiro, who has produced a quirky and innovative narrative about families, love and the difficulties of adolescence. The details concerning Henry's death which was caused by drowning are unclear, so his peculiar diary helps alleviate his parents' pain. Both Hannah and Harlan study the journal, which is filled with records of Henry's dreams, scraps of overheard conversations, and his amusing observations on life, hoping to find in it the son they never really bonded with in life. As Henry's hidden life unfolds, his parents make the painful discovery that they may have unwittingly been complicit in his unexpected death. Shapiro has a wonderful gift for detail, and his account of how one family copes with death is rendered in remarkable prose. A reading group guide is available online at www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.