b) Because the main character was someone I really liked. He stood up for his friends, and had a sense right and wrong, and also a sense of humour.
I docked this book 0.5* because I thought more detail could have been given to some other characters, but other than that it was an excellent book. I would NOT read it if you don’t like swearing or… graphic scenes. This book pulls no punches, and I love that.(less)
A TROUBLESOME BOY named one of the year’s best novels. Here’s the link:
‘THIS IS A STORY THAT WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN’
VOICE OF YOUTH ADVOCATES REVIEWS
From the New York public library website
VOYA Reviews 2012 August
Set in the late 1950s, Teddy is sent away by his mom’s live-in boyfriend, Henry, to St. Ignatius, a Catholic reform school for wayward boys. At the age of fourteen, Teddy must endure beatings, time-outs in dark closets, and verbal abuse from the priests. Teddy befriends Cooper, one of dozens of misfits, with a past of neglect and abuse. The two boys use humor and their wits to make the best of St. Iggy’s until Father Prince begins to summon Cooper to his room each evening. As Copper spirals into a dark despair, Teddy finds himself the next victim of Father Prince. A tale of physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic juvenile detention center, the story flows quickly and effortlessly. This is a quick read with an unexpected twist. Readers will not want to put it down. Not a story for anyone who likes a happy ending, this is a story that will not be forgotten. Troublesome Boy shows a realistic, yet fictional, aspect of life for teen boys in 1959 in a Catholic run boarding school.—Juli Henley 4Q 3P S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.
From the Los Angeles Public Library website
Proclaimed a failure and a troublesome boy by his school, 14-year-old Teddy is unceremoniously shipped off to St. Ignatius Academy, which is essentially a Catholic reform school. There he meets another troublesome boy named Cooper, and the two become friends and companions in adversity. For make no mistake, adversity is a way of life at St. Ignatius, where each day is a nightmare of physical and sexual abuse. And there is seemingly nothing the beleaguered boys can do about it except to find some measure of friendship and warmth in the school’s only noncleric, the janitor Rozey. Though set in 1959, the story has a ripped-from-the-headlines atmosphere and may, indeed, have been inspired by the spate of sex scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church of late. In this well-written and compelling book which is reminiscent of Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War (1974) the author offers no easy answers to the problems he poses, leaving ample room for discussion and debate.–Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist
Great Summer Reads
‘A Chilling First-Person Narrative”
Listen to the CBC Radio Show Book Panel Discussion on “A Troublesome Boy.”
Vasey Is A Master
Teddy’s last school year has been such a disaster that his mother’s live-in boyfriend has shipped him off to St. Ignatius Academy, a Catholic boys’ boarding school known for literally whipping guys into shape. Teddy’s big mouth and bad attitude get him his fair share of punishment, generally detention or lockdown in a dark closet for a few hours. His new pal Tim Cooper, faring even less well, has caught the attention of Father Prince. When Father Prince isn’t watching the boys in the shower, he’s singling Cooper out for special attention after lights out, and it becomes clear to Teddy that his friend is being abused. …. Yes, the tale of a predator priest seems like one that’s been done to death at this point, but Vasey is a master at probing the point at which harsh discipline turns to sadism, and vowed obedience to religious superiors turns to unconscionable betrayal. The 1959 setting of this Canadian import assists readers who follow the Church scandal in the news to understand how decades of buried dirty secrets can take so long to find the light.
- Elizabeth Bush
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Volume 65, Number 11, July/August 2012
pp. 586-587 | 10.1353/bcc.2012.0596
Posted at Project Muse, Johns Hopkins University
A Troublesome Boy
by Paul Vasey
Groundwood Books/House of Anasi
Usually, alongside my review, I like to place the book cover art in some context that plays with the book’s theme or plot. For A Troublesome Boy byPaul Vasey, this is completely unnecessary. The shadow of a young child, the crucifix, the dark cross of window frames against some light, the title echoing as a shadow parallel to the lines of the frames – the cover is complete and perfect. Sadly.
A Troublesome Boy of the title is fourteen-year-old Teddy Clemson who is shipped off to St. Ignatius Academy for Boys in August 1959, courtesy of his mother’s verbally-abusive boyfriend, Henry, who concurs with the school’s assessment of Teddy as problematic. So begins a new phase in Teddy’s life, beyond a childhood of fond family memories and then one of oblivion, after his dad took off and his mom took up with Henry. This newest chapter of his life is the story of A Troublesome Boy.
After being introduced, by the principal, Father Stewart, to the school’s expectations for respect, courtesy and hard work as well as to the punishing time-out room (an unlit broom closet with a straight-backed chair and no inside handle), Teddy meets Tim Cooper, a bespectacled fourteen-year-old with a history of break-and-enter, foster care and a passion for Wordsworth’s poetry. Known as Cooper to all, Tim is soon seen as a heroic rebel, questioning everything and everyone and constantly getting detentions and extensive periods in the time-out room. While Teddy breaks a few of the rules himself, like going to the boiler room (the domain of Rozey, the simple handyman) to have a cigarette, he quickly recognizes and becomes heedful of the relentless and punitive nature of several of the fathers, particularly the violent English teacher Father Sullivan, and Father Prince who regularly watches the boys while they shower and routinely coaxes Cooper away from the dorm in the middle of the night.
When Saturday free times come around, Teddy and then Cooper join Rozey for drives, discussions, cribbage, often at his old farm house, and fishing, giving Cooper “the best day I ever had“ (pg. 118). While enduring and questioning his role in the sexual abuse perpetrated by Father Prince, Cooper finds salvation in the boys’ weekly visits with Rozey, who shares stories from his life, giving Cooper and Teddy some understanding about relationships, particularly family. Giving Cooper his first real experience with comfort and concern, he proclaims of Rozey,
“…where’s he been all my life? How come I got to be fourteen before someone actually went out of his way to do things for me?…What I wouldn’t give to be his son. I could’ve been a great son if I’d ever had the chance.” (pg.160)
For the boys, St. Iggy’s becomes an endurance test as they consider the possibility of running away to the beaches of British Columbia. But, the continued abuse by the priests and Cooper’s escalating distress, including for Teddy who is invited to “talk” with Father Prince too, takes the story through unimaginable tragedies, relieved only by the occasional driblet of compassion from Rozey and those outside the Catholic residential school system.
Paul Vasey‘s admission in his About the Author notes that he is a boarding-school survivor, as well as a board member for a mental health facility for youth, may reveal the source of A Troublesome Boy‘s legitimacy and poignancy. The profanity of the boys’ words and lives will be blasphemous to some readers, perhaps repulsed by the potent indecency of it all, but Paul Vasey pens their story with a light craft, emphasizing the constructs of their emotions rather than detailed accounts of the abuse. This story should leave the reader physically repulsed by the crimes committed under the guise of reform and support while emotionally sobbing for those who have been forsaken and know it.
Posted by HelenK <
Here is footage from the Book Launch held on Phog Lounge in Windsor on May 29.
Listen to an interview with CBC Radio’s Bob Steele
A survivor of boarding school himself, Vasey tells of fourteen year old Teddy who, in 1959, is sent to a Catholic boarding school in rural Ontario by a stepfather who declares him a “troublesome boy.” At St Iggy’s, Teddy meets up with intransigent authority: a phalanx of priests who domineer over the boys in various violent, punitive and sexual ways. The ironic conjunction of religious teaching and abusive action only deepens when Teddy’s friend Cooper — spirited, intelligent, unloved — takes tragic action. Sharp, perceptive and vigorously written, Vasey’s novel confronts the past in a way that rings true to adolescence in the present. Imaginative dialogue, an energetic pace and nuanced characters make this exceptional.
- Deirdre Baker
Toronto Star May 26, 2012
Tom Lucier’s Windsor Star blog about A Troublesome Boy
“This book is a stunner ….”
Reviewed in Quill and Quire May 2012 By Shannon Ozirny
Accomplished journalist, CBC Radio host, and author Paul Vasey brings an impressive resume to his YA debut, an historical novel detailing the dark side of a fictional Catholic boarding school.
It is 1959, and 14-year-old Teddy Clemson is sent off to St. Ignatius Academy for Boys (St. Iggy’s) by his mother’s neglectful new boyfriend. Although Teddy makes friends, the arrangements take a nightmarish turn as he quickly falls victim to the mental, physical, and sexual abuse perpetrated by the priests running the school.
Vasey uses his journalist’s skills to great effect in this first-person narrative. The book is compulsively readable with a briskly moving plot, and every word has its place; there are no extraneous musings or monologues on religion. Nor do the short crisp sentences delve into needless sexual detail (anything beyond touching is referred to obliquely).
Vasey masterfully creates an unshakable feeling of creepiness. Take, for instance, one character’s description of a priest’s hand as a “big warm spider” massaging a certain part of his anatomy. Try getting that picture out of your head. There are several moments like this in the book, including the devastating finale, which will make readers both shudder and marvel at Vasey’s tremendous talent for creating searing images.
The clergy at St. Iggy’s are portrayed as one-dimensional villains, but considering their actions (either engaging in pedophilia or failing to report it), this presentation is understandable. The boys who endure the abuse react to their terrible circumstances with authentic moments of profanity, rage, humour, bewilderment and – because it’s the 1950s – lots of smoking.
This book is a stunner with definite adult crossover appeal, and one that effectively communicates the horrors of abuse without making readers feel like voyeurs.
Shannon Ozirny is a youth librarian in West Vancouver
A Review by Lauren Craig
“… an amazingly, powerful story”
A Review by Rob Bittner
When 14-year-old Teddy is classified as troublesome, disrespectful and defiant of authority, his despised stepfather sends him off to St. Ignatius Academy for Boys, an isolated Roman Catholic boarding school.
St. Iggy’s is run by priests who ruthlessly enforce discipline through intimidation and abuse. Narrator Teddy befriends the wisecracking, Wordsworth-loving Cooper. The boys use their wits and humor to cope, but the endless beatings and humiliations take their toll, especially on the fragile Cooper. He reaches his breaking point when he becomes the victim of Father Prince, a pedophile. Teddy watches helplessly as Cooper withdraws into his own private nightmare, and Prince targets Teddy himself as his next victim. The only positive adult relationship the boys have at school is with the janitor, who takes them to his farmhouse outside of town on Saturdays to enjoy a brief period of normalcy. The priests are either bullies or predators; even Brother Joe, who seems sympathetic to Teddy, betrays his trust. Although set in a well-realized 1959, Vasey’s brisk, sharply written, riveting narrative transcends any time period.
A vivid, disturbing and all-too-real topical story. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)
Review By Ed Sullivan
in Kirkus, March 2012
Here are reviews of some of Paul Vasey’s other books:
About The Failure Of Love
“Beneath the tough guy prose lurks a philosopher trying to understand the lack of love … (Vasey’s writing) is gruff and gritty going … very compelling.”
- Eve Drobot, The Globe and Mail
“What Kerouac does for America, Vasey does for Windsor.” – Room Magazine
“A smooth and captivating read. It’s about the sort of characters the apocalyptic Jesus would hang out with. These six stories speak with varied voices about desperation and compassion, about death and survival, about mourning and writing. The Failure of Love is concerned with religious, moral and humanistic values. It would be an excellent text for high school students of Canadian Literature. It can be a sobering uplifting pleasure for any reader.” – Canadian Book Review Annual
It’s Only A Broken Heart
As a writer, Vasey chooses to take a socially responsible approach to his work, delving into the whys and hows of many tough issues, but not in a preachy manner … He has written yet another outstanding novel.
Paul Vasey, whom renowned novelist M.T. Kelly described as being able to write about the ‘commonplace the way a magic realist would paint it, ‘ turns to the genre of mystery writing. In this dark and haunting tale, he writes about a middle-of-the-night dog walker who comes across a badly beaten body in a field by the river on the down side of this southwestern Ontario city. The victim was Carole Tippet, a 17-year-old addict and hooker. This raises a couple of questions: Who killed Carole Tippet? And how did Carole Tippet wind up spending the last three years of her life sticking needles in her arm and selling her body to any loser who happened by? Newspaper reporter Jonathan Hunter sets out in search of those answers. He finds himself in a seamy side of town called The Swamps, and it is here he comes face to face with the world of drug selling and prostitution. He fends off the pimps and dealers, the thugs and psychos to get answers to his questions about Tippet.
About Kids In The Jail
“Kids In The Jail is the most accurate and provocative demonstration yet of one of the most contentious issues of the decade. Why do kids commit murder, vicious assaults and other crimes that leave society reeling? How can such evil come from such innocence? This book should be mandatory reading for anyone old enough to vote.” – The Calgary Herald
“The book examines various ways of being proactive – reaching these kids before they end up in jail. There are some valuable suggestions. But, as many of the experts say, it’s not politically advantageous to deal with crime before it happens. It’s a sad commentary on our system. Kids In The Jail is recommended reading for anyone interested in crime in our province, especially politicians and those pushing for longer sentences. It’s easy to read, informative and a real eye-opener.” – Sarnia Gazette
About Into Thin Air
“The premise of the novel is that a reporter goes back to his hometown to investigate the disappearance of a woman. Many fear the woman is dead and other think she just tried to escape to a new life. I realize this sounds predictable but there’s something very skillful going on here.
The tough exterior of both the novel and the story begin to crack open (revealing) not the solution to a mystery but a deeper mystery. Some of the big questions come in here: What’s the meaning of existence and how many ways is it possible to disappear? This is a metaphysical novel, but it’s a sneaky one hiding in the form of a whodunit. Vasey’s novel is one of the very few that refuses to give me the conclusion that I pine for and still leaves me with a sense that I’ve gotten something better, namely a sense of wonder and a kind of poignant regret about the ways of the world.” – Antanas Sileika, on CBC Radio.
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