Summary: Labelled a troublesome boy by his old school, Teddy’s mother’s boyfriend decides to send him to St. Iggy’s, a Catholic boys boarding school. Once there he makes friends and gets along well with his classmates, but the priests and brothers who run the school often abuse their power through the use of physical discipline and intimidation. When one of the priests begins using Teddy’s friend Cooper for sexual favours, Teddy feels powerless to stop what becomes Cooper’s gradual descent into depression and hopelessness. The one good part of their lives comes in the form of Rozey, the school’s handyman, who befriends them both and acts as a friend and father figure. After tragedy strikes, Teddy seeks to avenge Cooper by holding the priests he feels are responsible accountable, only to find their protection is more pervasive than he ever could have imagined.
Number of Pages: 225
Age Range: 15-17
Review: I can’t write that I love A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey because I don’t. It’s a painful read dealing with serious and mature subjects featuring adult abuses of power in positions of trust.
But while Vassey’s book is gritty, the reason why it is such a painful read is because his characters are well-drawn and relatable. He hooks his readers into the story, and they become witnesses to Father Prince preying on Cooper’s vulnerable and sensitive nature. What hurt me most as a reader was how Father Prince used Cooper’s quest for love and acceptance against him, gaining his trust and becoming his confidant only to turn it into something sordid.
Even though Teddy’s efforts for getting justice are futile, I was glad he continually questioned his surroundings. Being a troublesome boy may have been an undesirable trait to his educators, but it ultimately saved him from sharing Cooper’s fate. The character growth in Vasey’s book is thoughtful, and I did love his exploration of the difference between being defeated and destroyed through Teddy and Cooper’s stories.
The first time I read Vasey’s book, I questioned the ending. Teddy’s father seems to appear from nowhere, and after years of no communication with his son suddenly they are ready to ride off into the sunset together. He apologizes and everything is fine between them. The second time, however, I appreciated it. I realised that by being expelled from school and picked up by his dad, he got the happy ending Cooper would never get. He had a place to belong and people that loved him, and thankfully because of that he would not end up like Cooper. My heart broke for Cooper, but that realisation helped me to not completely fall apart after finishing the story. It was a kindness on Vasey’s part, easing the ending of the book just a bit.
But I wish things could have been different. Those days Cooper and Teddy had with Rozey were some of the happiest they’d ever had, and I just wanted Rozey, the only genuine, reliable, and responsible adult in their lives to adopt them and take them home. In that sense, Teddy’s father picking him up isn’t so far-fetched after all.
“‘What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be bow forever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind . . . ‘” – quote by Wordsworth from A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey, page 74
“I wondered if vanishing fathers ever stopped for a minute before they dropped their drawers and jumped into bed with their new girlfriends and thought about how they were totally screwing the lives of everyone they were leaving behind. I had a hard time imagining that my old man ever gave me a second thought. But there wasn’t a day went by that I didn’t wish I could see him. And there wasn’t a day that I didn’t think how much I’d love to kill him as soon as I laid eyes on him.” – Teddy from A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey, pages 104-105
“‘You didn’t deserve it.’
‘So why all the shit raining down on my head? Some kids wind up in nice families. You and me, we wind up in St. Iggy’s? What is it, luck of the draw?’
“Well, I wish they’d reshuffle the deck. Let me pick another card.'” – Conversation between Teddy and Cooper from A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey, page 106
“‘Ever wonder why they’re such bad-tempered old men?’ said Klemski.
‘You’d be bad tempered if you had to swear off women and booze and poker and they made you walk around in wool robes all the time,’ I said. ‘Makes you wonder why they signed up in the first place.’
‘My mom says a lot of them signed up when they were kids. Seventeen, eighteen,’ said Klemski. ‘Before they knew any better. And it was a big deal to have a priest in the family.'” – Conversation between Klemski and Teddy about priests from A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey, pages 181-182
“Brother Joe looked at me. He nodded. ‘Maybe that is the main point,’ he said. ‘To live your life on your own terms, right to the end. Perhaps it’s the fight that matters, not the prize.’
‘So you can die and still win?’
‘Yes,’ said Bro Joe. ‘We’re all going to die. That’s not what’s important. What’s important is how we live.'” – Conversation between Brother Joe and Teddy from A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey, page 184