Audiobook Review + Giveaway: Golden Boy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review + Giveaway: Golden BoyGolden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Narrator: Abigail Tarttelin, Anita Sabherwal, Christian Coulson, James Langton, Kate Reading, Keith Nobbs
Length: 12 hrs, 40 mins
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on May 21, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher

The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world. They are even better at keeping them from each other.

Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he’s the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He’s even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max’s mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the façade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the façade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband, Steve, has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.

The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret. Why won’t his parents talk about it? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he’s starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him—desire him— once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?

Written by twenty-five-year-old rising star Abigail Tarttelin, Golden Boy is a novel you’ll read in one sitting but will never forget; at once a riveting tale of a family in crisis, a fascinating exploration of identity and a coming-of-age story like no other.

This is one of those times where I’m incredibly glad that I’m a book blogger. You see, were I not blogging, I would not have the reader friends I do, and I would miss out on books like Golden Boy. I never would have picked this up in the store, because the cover is weird and doesn’t really convey the subject matter. Thankfully, a couple days after I got an email with Golden Boy as one of the audiobooks available for review, my dear friend Jenni of Alluring Reads told me that she felt certain I would love this book. Jenni was right.

This cover is a strange one, and, once I knew what the book was about, I can see what they’re doing, subtly calling out the gender issues with the two bikes, one intended for males and one for females. Why moving a bar from straight to slanted suddenly makes a bike girly or changes it in any practical way, I can’t say. Still, I do think it’s a shame there’s nothing on the cover to speak to the subject matter, because I seek out books about different sorts of sexuality/gender and would have missed this.

Golden Boy tells the story of Max, a handsome boy who seems perfect in every respect, popular, athletic and intelligent. Max has a secret, though: he’s not actually a boy. Nor is he a girl. Max is intersex, the new politically correct term that replaced hermaphrodite. Because Max has both a penis and a vagina, he’s avoided serious relationships, though he has developed a reputation because he makes out with a lot of different girls. His being intersex didn’t really impact his life.

Until it did. At a family party, Hunter, Max’s best friend growing up, rapes Max. The scene is rather graphic and intensely emotional. Max has always felt like a boy, and not really questioned that. With this incident, Max has to truly face that he’s not a regular boy, and, in the fallout, so does his family. What follows is an honest, beautiful, heart-wrenching look at Max’s journey to become comfortable with who he is and to decide who he wants to be as an adult.

The subject matter in Golden Boy is quite dark and unflinching at times. The discussion of the issues of being intersex is frank and honest. However, Tarttelin makes the brilliant storytelling move of including more than just Max’s perspective, which cuts on the melodrama. She does six separate perspectives: Max, his family (mother, father, little brother), his girlfriend Sylvie, and his doctor Archie (a woman). Since I listened to the audiobook, I can’t say how individual they felt in print, but in the audiobook they were all brilliantly performed, with a narrator for each perspective.

In some books with multiple perspectives, characters are added for no discernible reason at all, not adding anything to the narrative, or particular perspectives are incredibly boring, to be suffered through while the reader waits impatiently for the main character to return. Not so with Golden Boy. Each perspective brought something to the table, even Max’s father’s, which only appears twice. Max is so confused and lost and depressed that it’s wonderful to see him from an outside perspective. Daniel, for instance, hero-worships his brother. Sylvie thinks he’s hot. Neither of them know, of course, but we get a true look at the golden boy. Then there’s his parents, who love him and do the best they can, but, through their perspectives, the reader really gets a sense of how uncomfortable they are with his intersexuality now that it’s known he’s actually of age for sex.

Archie’s point of view adds a whole other dimension. As a doctor, when Max comes in, he really lights a fire in her when she realizes how little she knows about being intersex. Her medical schooling included almost nothing on the subject. She begins to really research, because she very much wants to help Max, who comes to her office the day after his rape for a morning after pill. Archie’s perspective really drives home how little attention the medical community is paying to such gender issues and how much they push to “normalize” with surgery.

Since there’s a lot I would spoil if I went any more into the plot, I’m going to speak in general terms. The way Tarttelin wrapped everything up is incredibly touching and what convinced me this book deserved the full five stars. Some of the choices Tarttelin made surprised me, but they were just right. I’ll leave it at that.

If you’re going to read this book, which I really think you should, the audiobook is an excellent choice. With six talented narrators giving voice to the six perspectives, there’s a strong sense of voice. The narrators for Max and Sylvie are particularly compelling. I’ve listened to quite a few full cast narrations, but this one is I think the best I’ve read so far.

LGBT (I know this doesn’t cover everything, but the term QUILTBAG looks a bit silly – I intend this as all-encompassing) issues have not been covered nearly enough in fiction and I love Golden Boy merely for existing. However, Golden Boy is not just wonderful for covering a tricky, sensitive topic, but for doing so with heart, honesty and compassion. Abigail Tarttelin, welcome to my auto-read list.

Since I loved this book so much, I want to share that love with one of my readers. I know audiobooks aren’t for everyone, so the winner will have their choice of a gifted Audiobook from Audible or a hardcover to be shipped from either TBD or Amazon, depending on which of those ship to you. This contest is international. Just fill out the Rafflecopter to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

20 responses to “Audiobook Review + Giveaway: Golden Boy”

  1. Amy says:

    Wow, this sounds amazing!! Like you, I would never have thought about picking this up because the cover does nothing for me. I know it’s horrible, but true. I thought about getting the audio of it for review, but there were some others I wanted more. I will definitely have to check this one out though. It sounds very dark, but I love books with issues that can make me feel! The audio of it sounds amazing too!! Awesome review!!

  2. Wow, this sounds absolutely perfect for me. Thank you for sharing, because without your tweet I probably would have glossed over this. I don’t know what I thought it was about, but judging by the cover I definitely would have thought it was boring.

    I entered your giveaway, but I’m probably going to try to find my own copy of this so I can read it sooner.

    • Christina says:

      Agreed! This cover really does it a disservice. That mustard color, blech. Plus, it looks like adult lit fic of the most boring kind, but the book’s actually very interesting and YA.


  3. Heather says:

    Wow, 5 stars! I definitely have to read this one. Oh, great rafflecopter gods, pick me! haha 🙂

  4. Tammy says:

    I love listening to audiobooks in the car while I drive. Right now it’s City of Glass, which I probably would not have got through reading it. Clary’s immaturity drives me crazy.

  5. Dana says:

    This would never have gotten a second look from me but I really respect your views on books so I’m adding this one to my TBR. I’ve gotten into listening to more and more audiobooks lately. A good way to read when I can’t actually sit to read.

  6. roro says:

    WOW 5 stars . i’m adding it . goodluck to all
    nad tnx 4 the review

  7. I can’t even tell you how excited I am that you 5 starred this. After talking to you so much while you were reading through it I want to go back and up my rating because I have come to see that it is more than deserving. Like you, I really appreciated that addition of the doctors perspective, I think it made it an even more eye opening experience than it would have been without that. And Max, oh man, I felt so bad for him because he really had no idea about himself and there really was nowhere he could go to for answers.

    Fabulous review of a fabulous book!

    • Christina says:

      YESSSS, and I don’t regret it, so I’m probably not going to. Good use of a five star. Poor Max. He got such a terrible hand dealt to him in here, but he handles it so well, all things considered. *hugs Max*

  8. Nicole says:

    Wow this sounds super intense. This is not something I would normally pick up but maybe I should follow you and give it a try. I am not always in the mood for a serious read but when I am I love ones that move me and challenge me and make me think. And I really like multiple POVs, especially when they really give depth to the story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Christina! And thanks for the giveaway. 😀

    Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

    • Christina says:

      It is pretty intense, but in a very true to life way, if that makes sense. So glad that you’re considering giving it a try! I think our culture needs more awareness of gender issues and this book was beautiful!

  9. Heather King says:

    I listened to the audio sample and it sounds great! Thanks for the chance. I hadn’t heard about this book until now.;)

  10. Cannon Law says:


    This is a beautiful novel. I think I´d like to read a novel like this. Could you share reviews of other LGBT stories.

    Maybe if the main character were a woman would be great!

    Thanks for sharing

  11. Tyler Flood says:

    Awesome novel I´d like to read.

    Can you share one copy with me? I love novels. Sometimes kind of the sad ones. Something like 13RW.

    Could you write your opinion about one of these novels?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge