‘Golden Boys’ by Sonya Hartnett is an utterly engaging novel of a new family moving into a close-knit neighbourhood, who are from a higher socioeconomic group, and hence, stick out, becoming both a draw to the rest of the children from the street, as well as the envy of them all.
Colt and Bastian Jensen have all the toys children could wish for, and soon have an above-ground pool, as well. Their father, Rex Jensen, lavishes them with gifts, and is pushy and extreme about the other neighbourhood children taking part – everyone is welcome, at all times, and he’ll offer tea and party pies and be very polite at all times.
The neighbourhood kids all have their issues. We have the large, rough bully, who hates everything at all times but also wants to keep everything for himself – especially things that aren’t his.
We have a small, hopeless child who has absent parents, and currently lives with grandparents who don’t care or notice where he is – so he spends his nights cycling around, enjoying the stars.
Then we also have a family of many children, a rough loveless mother, and a drunk abusive father. The eldest daughter of the family turns to Rex for advice and attention, finding a father figure in her life that she can talk to. Her siblings however quickly learn to avoid the man, who seems odd in the way children can pick up – a tendency to pat their shoulder unnecessarily, and then there’s the creepy way he helps them dry off after a dip in the pool…
In an utterly truthful novel, Hartnett has managed to perfectly capture how children interact with each other and the adults around them, and how a child can brush off a creep’s intent with a shrug and a knowing ‘he’s a creep’ statement, matter of fact.
This is a novel that is at times brutal, and at all times engaging – it’s hard to put down, and painful in its shortness. We’re left with an open ending, as things are just a natural slice of their life – we see no justice for any of the terrible crimes we read, nor do we see any ending to them. We’re left to believe that in an sadly realistic way – life must just carry on.