When you ask a child why he enjoys reading, he will most likely look to his Harry Potter and young adult dystopian literature filled bookshelves, and tell you that it’s because reading takes him to another world. On some level, this is the foundational reason we all appreciate fiction. It’s escapist. It’s foreign, interesting, controversial, romantic. And we’re naturally destined to enjoy it because it grows out of the Neverlands and Narnias of our childhood.
It seems an accepted conclusion that when we read, we don’t read about circumstances drastically similar to our own. Lauren Mangiaforte breaks this paradigm. The entire purpose of her novel, The Boys Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, is to recreate the world that is our own: the world of St Andrews.
Of course, Mangiaforte herself does not overtly connect St Andrews to her fictional Scottish seaside town of St Albas. Yet, the parallel is obvious and pre-established to any reader of the novel. And any reader who might be a St Andrews student wouldn’t think twice about making the connection between “May Saving” and “May Dip” or “The Shark” and “The Lizard.”
So the point of the novel is not simply drawing parallels between St Andrews and its fictional counterpart. Rather, the point of the novel is engaging in a dialogue written in the secret language of St Andrews students. It’s a book for us, a book that we can only truly understand. And there’s something rather special about that bond it creates.
It’s actually quite a startling phenomenon to read a novel so exclusively based in familiarity. It demands a certain level of introspection. Watching the letter-by-letter, street-by-street reconstruction St Andrews inherently asks you where you fit into the eclectic picture. But by the mere variation in that picture, it is clear that you do fit in somewhere.
The Boys Who Wouldn’t Grow Up is not escapist. It belongs to those for whom St Andrews is already an escape in itself. For those who leave the real world to spend time this miniature ancient ruin of cobblestones.
Images sourced from Pinterest.