Nate is seventeen and lives with his Aunt Susan after he was thrown out of home by his mom — not for being gay, but because he inherited the family “talent” for being able to see and communicate with ghosts. Nate’s is a lonely existence, despite the regular guidance he receives from his dead grandmother and he is frequently bullied at school for being “crazy.. Well, that is until James Powell’s first day.
James is good-looking and immediately wants to be Nate’s friend, though Nate cannot ignore the ghost who accompanies James. Nate and James connect over a mutual love of movies and are soon spending every weekend together, but James has his own secrets that are revealed to Nate by James’ dead brother. Now both Nate and James have to come to terms with their feelings, about their circumstances and each other, so they can move forward together.
A Boy Worth Knowing is a warm and touching story that I enjoyed reading, particularly considering that it is Jennifer Cosgrove’s debut novel. I know that first-person narration is not every reader’s favorite, but Cosgrove’s writing is effortless and I was easily swept into Nate’s complex life. I think that in this case, the use of a direct narrative is perfect, connecting the reader directly to Nate’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Cosgrove’s writing style also ensures that the reader sees James through Nate’s eyes, capturing Nate’s infatuation and allowing the secrets James has to be revealed over time.
The characters of Nate and James are obviously central to A Boy Worth Knowing and I really liked the fact that Cosgrove concentrates carefully on the development of their friendship. This slow-burn reinforces the deep closeness between Nate and James and encourages the reader’s need to believe that the pair should be a couple.
One of my personal highlights of A Boy Worth Knowing is Cosgrove’s ability to turn a paranormal romance into a story that has such a real human connection. Cosgrove does this by the inclusion of Nate’s Nana and to some extent, James’ brother. I think the majority of people who read this book will have experienced grief for someone they love and each time Nate speaks to his Nana in the story, I felt my own heart ache for my grandparents. Whilst both Nana and David are dead, they do impart meaningful advice and in the case of Nana, provide some light-hearted relief.
A Boy Worth Knowing is a young adult novel and Cosgrove deals with a series of issues that will impact the lives of her target audience. Nate is not only gay, but he is an outsider at school, bullied for his differences, and is experiencing first love. He has also been rejected by his mother and can only talk to his sister when he sees her at school. James is bisexual as well as trying to come to terms with his grief.
As the story neared its end, I found myself reading with less enthusiasm. Although I understood Cosgrove’s intentions in tying up loose ends in terms of Nate and James’ graduation and leaving them with a more settled future, their happy for now ending was one I already believed in. For me, Cosgrove had already illustrated the strength of Nate and James’ relationship, so I felt these later chapters did not add to the story and some details were too unconvincing.
Overall, however, A Boy Worth Knowing is a book I would recommend to fans of young adult novels and I look forward to reading more of Cosgrove’s work.