Review: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

Publisher: Hogarth

Publication Date: May 11th, 2017

Genre: Fiction/Re-telling

Pages: 204 pages

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)

*Cover = Goodreads

From the New York Times bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring comes the fifth installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, a modern retelling of Othello set in a suburban schoolyard

Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970’s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi, Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

This is my first read from the Hogarth Shakespeare collection & it will not be the last. Originally I had plans to start with another Hogarth title, Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed but I’m glad I opted to go with this one. A short read coming in at just about 200 pgs., New Boy by Tracey Chevalier packs a hell of a punch! Seeing as this is a short book, I decided to go with my thoughts & not go too in depth with plot for fear of spoilers. I was drawn to this book once I read “tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970’s suburban Washington schoolyard” in the Goodreads blurb & thought YES PLEASE! I was the kid in Junior High School who actually enjoyed the classics & read as many as possible (prob why I read so much YA now lol) so this was like music to my 7th grade self. This will def not be the last Hogarth title I read, I found the writing easily accessible when compared to the Ol’ legend Shakespeare himself. I’m all for a modern take on the classics when it’s done right & Tracy Chevalier delivered a poignant re-telling.

95% of this story takes place in the school yard & the main characters are 6th graders aka the seniors. We follow our main character Osei Kokote who has just transferred into the school about 7 mths prior to graduation. Osei is the son of a diplomat & no stranger to being the new boy in school/playground. This school however is a bit tougher to adjust to with Osei being the only child or for that matter, the only person of color. Osei is a very quiet, observant, and wise for his age child. Still, at the end of the day he is just a child in a all white school during the Nixon era which sadly made him the target. We see the trickle down effects of racism from the adults to the children. The atmosphere on the playground changes whenever Osei is around & the tension is palpable to the reader. From the children staring & whispering to the teachers who immediately peg him as a problem child, the build up leaves you with a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach.

I felt a range of emotions reading New Boy, anger was a big one. Chevalier didn’t hold back, providing us with the POV’s of both the children and the teachers. Many times I found myself wondering who was worse, the children who were taught to hate a skin color or the teachers with racism embedded in their hearts. Osei made one friend on that playground, Dee who found herself fascinated by him because he was different. Dee found herself wanting to spend all her time with Osei, talking about all he had seen while traveling with his parents. The attention Dee gave Osei was immediately noticed by all others. Playgrounds are known to be the scene of many dramatic events between friends and foes. Also, they typically have some sort of hierarchy with cliques that form & dissolve at the blink of an eye. This story has it’s bully aka aggressor, his name is Ian & throughout the course of this book we see him plot & scheme. Although you see the typical childhood dramas unfold, it isn’t without an underlying sense of danger.

This book made me think for days about what the younger generations are being taught at home. Not the lessons you get from books but rather the ones passed on by the older generations. How racism isn’t something you are born with, it is taught. The kids in this book were repeating things they heard at home but lacked conviction. There were moments when they included Osei in games & you almost thought they’d forgotten they feared him. Then an incident would occur & serve as a reminder of who they were taught to keep their distance from. I’ve never had a book invoke this much emotion to leave me shaking, making New Boy a read I’ll never forget. It’s short & to the point. Raw & unapologetic til the very last sentence. A relevant read given our current social & political climate. I highly recommend this one to all my book blogging buddies & readers. If you do decide to pick this one up, feel free to contact me to talk about this read.

Have any of you read New Boy or perhaps have plans to? if so (w/out spoilers), what are your thoughts? Also, if you’ve read any of the other books in the Hogarth collection, which would you recommend I read next?

Author: LairOfBooks

"I didn't choose the Book Life, the Book Life chose me"

30 thoughts on “Review: New Boy by Tracy Chevalier”

  1. Wow this sounds like an incredibly book Lilly. Pretty much all I needed to see in your review was that this was a retelling and I know it would have to be added to my to-read list! 🙂
    Everything you said about this book in your review only made me more determined to get around to it one day. It sounds like it tells such an important story with its characters, and the message it gets across about racism as well.
    Great review. I hope you enjoy the other books Tracy Chevalier has written in this series just as much! 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know a friend that received a copy and it sounded interesting, but I personally was saddened by Othello! The only Shakespeare play I really enjoyed was The Winter Tale bc it’s got a somewhat happy ending, plus it has that line, “Exit, Pursued by a bear!” 😂😂😂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh yes…best line ever and one of EK Johnston’s YA contemporary books, lol.
        I had an Intro to Shakespeare class and we read em all: Macbeth, Othello, Winter’s Tale, Henry VIII…another one involving a pimp and infidelity…can’t remember the name! The Bard is dark even when he’s funny! 😳


  3. Great review! I read this also. It was infuriating, frustrating and so well written. To provoke that much emotion in a reader is a real skill!

    I want to read Hagseed as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sarah! It WAS infuriating & frustrating. By the last page I just turned off my Kindle cuz I had no words for what I had just finished reading. Def looking into this author 😉 in probably going to read Hag-Seed but first I’d really like to get to The Handmaids Tale 😃💕

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review twin! This book although short sounds very impactful and heartfelt. Also sounds like a book that is needed in our times (like you said) and definitely worth the read. I hope this book can be an eye-opener to many! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m surprised the author chose such a young cast — age 11 — to re-tell Othello. There was a movie that did an Othello re-telling in a high school called “O.” This is back closer to the re-telling of Romeo and Juliet starring Leo DiCaprio. I haven’t read of the books in this series that you’re interested in because I read the synopsis for Jeanette Winterson’s re-telling and felt confused. I’m already confused enough by Shakespeare as it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was surprised as well when I read that it was a group of 6th graders but it worked out well. I’m glad I started with this title in the collection since I’ve heard. Wry mixed reviews for others. I also read the blurb for Winterson’s book & admit it wasn’t the easiest to follow. I enjoyed the language in Shakespeare’s works, some can be triply cuz it’s outdated lol. Othello was one of the first I read of his & I happened to have a really good Junior High teacher that broke it down for me 😉 thank you for stopping by 😃💕

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Maybe I need to give Hogarth Shakespeare another fair go?! I actually went with Hag-Seed a while back and failed to connect at all. I seem to struggle with her writing style (but do not deny her talent!). This should be a great fit among my attempts to branch out more. Wonderful review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember you not connecting with the writing which was one of the reasons I purchased Handmaidens Tale instead of Hag-Seed lol. This was one was short & to the point yet sooooo powerful. A bit unnerving too, think you’d appreciate this one 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely review! This book sounds captivating and original. I love the setting that you described. I haven’t read a Hogarth Shakespeare, but it sounds like a really should. Also that cover is fantastic.


  8. This is the first I’ve heard of this book but you had me at the fact that it gives a powerful message and is a retelling. I’ll definitely be adding this one to my TBR. Great review as always, Lilly!! 💕😃


  9. I’ve been eagerly waiting for someone to review this book and I was so glad it was you Lilly!! I read Hag-Seed and enjoyed it despite it’s oddness, but I think I would enjoy this book more. I hadn’t realized that Tracy Chevalier had written a book for the Hogarth Shakespeare collection until I saw it on Blogging for Books. I keep checking back to see if New Boy will become available again, as there are no more copies every time I check the site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Amanda! I def think this one you’d enjoy profoundly, seems to also be picking up popularity 😉 I may go with another Hogarth title but I’m not sure which since I’d like to read Handmaids Tale before I even think of Hag-Seed lol. I hope it comes around again just for you 😉📚💙

      Liked by 1 person

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