One of the Boys
July 7, 2024

Book Review

One of the Boys

reviewed by Pam Guynn

Set in a dystopian near-future Britain, One of the Boys is set in a time when research has found a gene that predicts violence. Antonia and Bea are sisters and mothers to boys. Antonia had her son tested to make sure he didn’t possess the violence gene. However, Bea refuses to let her son take a test. She doesn’t feel his life should be predetermined by a positive or negative test result. Both will do anything to protect their sons.

All parents of boys seven and under can get tested. But the ramifications of testing or not testing, as well as the testing result, has significant effects on the quality of life. Antonia and her husband Owen have a son Jack, who is slightly younger than Bea and Alfie’s son Simon. Owen is a pediatrician who opens a clinic to test and treat boys who test positive. They’re financially successful and Antonia tends to treat Jack gently with a light hand. Bea and Alfie struggle financially and Simon is treated more firmly. A third mother, Zara, and her son Malcolm, are presented as a contrast. In Malcom’s case, his parents elect to test him, and his results come back positive for the gene.

The premise is thought-provoking with a plot that is dark and full of secrets. It looks at nature versus nurture and the social and economic impacts resulting from the test result or the lack thereof. Additionally, parenting styles and parent-child relationships made this story intriguing as do a murder mystery, and the different treatments of girls and boys. Social media’s role throughout the story added another dimension to the tale. However, the twists in this book were relatively easy to see coming. Additionally, the story is told from four different points of view and goes backwards and forwards in time. While this gives great insight into the lives of the characters, it adversely affected the pacing for me. Despite this, the originality and storyline kept me rapidly turning the pages. Woven into this story are politics, legal ramifications, medical privacy, relationships between mothers and sons, and much more. 

Overall, this is a provocative, intriguing, and disturbing read. It makes one think of genetic testing and the potential political, legal, social, medical, and economic impacts it could have. The moral and ethical considerations alone make for energetic discourse. There are discussion questions and an author’s note at the end of the novel that are worth reading as well.

I purchased a copy of this novel. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. Publication date was July 11, 2023.


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