A review by philippmk
Golden Boys by Phil Stamper

funny lighthearted fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


This book is perfect for a light summer read, even though I read this in October. If you're looking for any more depth than that, you're not going to find it here.

Golden Boys, to its own detriment, has four main characters. As a consequence, the reader only gets to know each of them on a surface level basis. By the end of the book, it was hard for me what anyone really saw in their romantic interest (a similar issue I had with Stamper's debut novel The Gravity of Us).

For example, I don't understand why Gabe would choose to enter a long-distance relationship with Matt by the end of the book, simply because I couldn't tell what exactly connected them).

If you asked me, you could absolutely scrap both Sal's and Gabe's stories and give more space to the others. Neither of their narratives I found very compelling, as they consisted mostly of them disliking their summer jobs.

Both Reese and Heath I would have loved to see more of. We only ever get a brief glimpse of what Paris, a European metropolis, is like through the eyes of smalltown Ohio Reese when there is so much potential of exploration — both of the city and of himself. Learning to accept critique from his peers and using it to grow is also a very interesting character arc, which we unfortunately have so little room for to make it feel deserved by the end. With more space for Reese we could have also explored what it was like to grow up in a small town as a gay kid with two lesbian moms, but we don't really get into that at all.

Also, meeting Philip's conservative girlfriend so late in the book felt disappointing as this could have been an interesting character for Reese to deal with, but we only get one or two sequences with her.

Heath, however, was by far my favourite character. Not only did I find him the most likeable and down-to-Earth, but his family dynamic was the most interesting plotline of the entire book for me. Perhaps because his summer activity was less career-driven and more personal, it feels like he is the protagonist we get to know the most intimately, even if only briefly. His parents' divorce driving him to connect with the family he's never met and becoming genuine friends with his cousin was heartwarming to see. I probably could have read an entire book from his perspective.

Ultimately, I had a good time reading this book (finishing it a lot faster than I usually do), but I also see a lot of room for improvement.

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