The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

Placing an autistic or Asperger’s boy in the middle of a fantasy novel is a great idea. Although Oscar is never labeled, it’s clear that his love for, almost obsession with, plants and herbal remedies and his lack of understanding of people place him somewhere on the autism spectrum. He sometimes wonders whether he’s really human. Maybe he’s made of wood (something like Pinocchio). But, of course, by the end of the book Oscar finds out that he is a real boy.

I wanted to like this story of a magician’s apprentice (or “hand”) as much as I liked the author’s earlier middle grade fantasy, Breadcrumbs. But something about this one felt forced. The plot sort of meandered along and never really held together tightly. I liked Oscar as a character, and his friend Callie was a good foil and helper to Oscar. All of the other characters in the village and in the city on the mountain sort blurred together and never really became vivid in my mind. The point or theme of the story was never really clear to me either.

Maybe you should just try another review of The Real Boy, from someone who actually liked it. This story just didn’t grab me.

Sonderbooks: “I’m not sure I was satisfied with the ending — not sure I understood clearly enough what had actually happened. But the book itself, the world, and especially Oscar, were delightful to spend time with.”

Rhapsody in Books: “By the time I got to page 15, I had a problem. I knew I was so hopelessly in love with this book that I couldn’t bear to read any more, because then it would be over, but I also couldn’t bear to stop reading, because I wanted to be immersed in this magical world created by Ursu!”

The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia: “. . . the prose was quiet without being boring, and encompassed Oscar’s narrow world and its truths while also describing the confusing complexity of humanity. And let’s not forget Erin McGuire’s illustrations! She made Oscar’s experiences come to life.”

So, the moral of my review is : when in doubt, let other book bloggers do the heavy lifting for you.

1 thought on “The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

  1. You’re not the only one. On our Cybils panel, we had people who loved it, and people who just didn’t get it. But it was a gorgeous world. And as you pointed out, Oscar himself was interesting. Ursu is a fascinating writer, I think, if not always accessible to every kid.

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