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Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon

I have been always into reading in books . Some movies are awesome – but nothing can be compared with the insight that the book can give you nor to the fantasy world you can get to while reading it . Out of the hundreds book I have read some stuck to me – its the same with movies in a way – one of those books is Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.

I got myself the audio presentation of the book ( some 12 hours worth of audio ) and departed for the world created by the Robert McCammon. ( I can also say that I departed back to myself – to my memories of being a boy – just like Cory ).

The narrator is the 12 year old Corry – and soon after I associated with him and his adventures ( the author associated with another character from his story Vernon – but I will let you see for yourself the reasons for that). As a protagonist of the story he was growing and changing throughout the novel in many ways. He learns that there are many dangers when one goes against the crowd, or has different beliefs. When I finished the book I was so impressed that decided that this coming of age classic could easily become a theme book on my entire blog.

The book is a prime example of a coming of age masterpiece – and it is not just the name that hints this to the reader. I don`t remember seeing , hearing, reading or watching anything else that was able to so accurately and fully describe this rite of passage period.

The books leads to to almost all aspects from the life of a boy. Best friends, bullies, evenings at the cinema and that brand-new bike. McCammon describes each of these themes in an unique way that takes you back to your own experiences.  One example of that is a passage at the beginning of the story in which Cory sees Invaders from Mars at the local cinema.  The impact that film had on him and his friends was so neatly described that you will remember those the moments spent in the movie theater after the lights went off and how you felt after seeing a really good movie. I was ready to sail away after seeing a movie with pirates, and was horrified to go outside in the dark after seeing Stephen King’s,  IT.  Things haven’t changed for me a lot.

While I was reading about the accident with Corry’s dog I saw myself, warm tears on my cheeks, holding my puppy in my hands screaming at the veterinarian that he has to save my dog. That whatever sickness got into it could be cured. Then as with Cory, I learned to deal with death. Death that McCammon describes as a lonely young boy.

I really got into the story and by the middle of it I felt like a resident of Zephyr, Alabama. Cory Mackenson was my close friend up to the point at which I screamed to Cory and his friends to wait for me as I peddled my bike.

I would like to borrow a quot from the review by Gene Lyons published at the author’s web site :

“See, this is my opinion,” McCammon’s narrator, Cory Mackenson, tells us: “We all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us.” [3]

The book also provides some intense action, a murder mystery, a horrifying and dramatic flood description. It portrays the excitement, despite the ignorance, of youth. It also included the most amazing description of the feeling of having a new bike and riding it. In fact as an owner of such and influenced by the book I decided to give it a name “Grey Thunder” A item that earned me some odd looks from my mother when I announced it to her. She thought it was odd. But I knew…

The book taught me important life lessons . Such as :

You never know what a person can do until he has to do it.

or about the job of boyhood :

and :

If this had been a television show, it would have been time for a commercial. But real life takes no pauses.

I say Boy’s Life is not about lost innocence, because I believe we all maintain the pool of innocence and wonder inside us no matter how far we get away from our childhood. I believe this pool can be revisited, and we can immerse ourselves in its healing water if we dare to take the risk of knowing again the children we used to be.  A mixture of fiction and biography as mentioned by the author himself in his letter to the readers . [1]

In an interview the Boy’s Life author mentioned that while his book was not written for a young audience it found a huge audience among them. It is now taught in high schools across the country. This makes me a bit jealous of the American kids the same way I felt when I discovered another favorite book of mine – Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks while I myself attended high school in the USA.

I recommend highly, Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon and would like to finish my review with a quote from it :

The years of a boy’s life pass so fast, Cory. Boys want to hurry up and be a man and then there comes a day they wish they were boys again. No One ever grows up. They may look grown up, but its a disguise. It’s just the clay of time. Men and women are still children. Deep in their hearts they would still like to jump and play, but that heavy clay won’t let them. They would like to shake off every chain the world has ever put on them. Take off their watches, neckties and Sunday shoes and return naked to the swimming pool. They want to feel free . . . and know that there is a mommy and daddy at home who will take care of things no matter what. Remember! Remember everything and anything. Don’t you go through a single day without remembering something from it . . .

If you are reading Boy’s Life for the first time, I hope you enjoy it. I hope it takes you to some places you never knew existed . . . or to places that you may have forgotten ever did exist.[2]

[1]A Letter FromRobert R. McCammon link

[2]Why I Wrote Boy’s Life R. McCammon link

[3]Entertainment Weekly, Book Reviews, August 30, 1991 link

PS : I may never get a chance to write personally to Robert McCammon, like many of his fans do. But I hope that this review would serve as an open letter of invitation to him. And if he ever stumbles upon this, there is one thing I would  want to say to him.

“Thank you for taking me back ! “



  1. I just finished Boy’s Life.

    I am almost speechless at the beauty of this novel. Words simply cannot describe how amazingly taken away I was while reading Boy’s Life.

    What an amazing piece of literature. The almost episodic chapters were each filled with unforgettable moments that both ultimately lead to the unraveling of the overall story but also showcase the beauty of friendship and the magic of being a child.

    The discovery of Corey Mackenson that darkness lies beneath the surface in life, is one that every single one of us must come to terms with at some point as we grow up. I think this universal theme is captured in such a poignant and meaningful manner.

    Some moments in this novel had me in tears as well. I don’t want to write spoilers in here, so I will leave it at that, but there are some incredibly moving chapters in this book.

    I think the way McCammon writes is gorgeous as well. His descriptive paragraphs paint such a clear picture in your mind and plant the thoughts and feelings within you while you travel on Cory’s journey’s with him. I actually had to take a moment at times after I had finished reading for the day, to step back into my own reality.

    One of the best novels I have ever read and I doubt anything will come close to making me feel the way this novel did.

    Thank you so much to TheSkyKid for making me aware of this work. Without you, I would’ve never discovered it.

    • I am glad that you liked the book and that I helped you to discover it. Helping people discovering such gems is one of the reasons I write my reviews – and its very rewarding to see that I have achieved that . I am currently reading another Coming-of-Age book which could be of interest for you – you will soon find its review on the site

  2. Boys Life is the best book I ever read. When I first read it in the mid 90’s, it took me out of the depths of depression back to a time of wonder and magic. I have read it several times since. After reading Boys Life, I read McCammons other horror stories that he is known so well for but, to tell you the truth, I didn’t much care for them. But Boys Life is wonderful. I love the way Mr. McCammon wove so many stories and life lessons into the book. I think you did a great job of describing how great Boys Life is.

    Years ago, I left a message on the McCammon website urging him to follow up with another book about Cory Mackerson’s teenage years and maybe call it Young Man’s Life. There is a lot of magic to tell about those years and I think Robert McCammon would be a perfect choice to tell it.

    You mentioned King as another author to read if you enjoyed Boys Life. Can you be a little more specific about which titles of King’s tell of the magic of coming of age?

    • I am yet to read any of the other books written by Robert McCammon . Having read The Tender Bar by J.R Moehringer I agree with you that a sequel to Boys Life would be extremely interesting. 2 books of Stephan King come to my mind right now – one of them is “IT” which has more then one lead characters whose childhood experiences are explored in detail. Also “The Body ” , ” Hearts in Atlantis ” and of course “Desperation”. Out of these – the coming of age period is best described in “It”

  3. I am 50 pages into this book and I am absolutely hooked.

    I don’t get around to reading a lot of novels, but this one I cannot put down. McCammon descriptive writing is like no other that I’ve read. He is so in tuned with nature and the view of surrounding identies in the mind of a child that I find myself completely in trace when reading this story. I can feel myself getting sucked into this world, and when I stop reading and takes me a few moments to come back to the real world. That is when I know I am hooked to a novel.

    I will write a full review once I have completed it.

    Amazing stuff.

    If anyone has any other reccomendations that are similar to this book, I would love to hear them. I think I’ll be reading McCammon again as well.

    • Glad we share our sentiments for Boy’s Life . In my review I mentioned Stephen King and you definitely should check some of his novels . Also check Russell Banks`s novel Rule Of The Bone . I am sure the narrative of Boy’s Life will be beneficial for your own writing as well !

  4. Just ordered this book.

    Can’t wait to recieve it and start reading.

    I would not have know about it if it wasn’t for this review. So thank you. :)

  5. This is one of my favorite books of all time! I actually got to read the “Old Moses” chapter to a group of 5th graders a couple of years back on “Read Across America Day”. Awesome book… it's got it all!


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