cover image Beetle Boy

Beetle Boy

Margaret Willey. Carolrhoda Lab, $17.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4677-2639-9

Willey (Four Secrets) returns with a riveting story about being robbed of one’s childhood. When Charlie Porter is seven years old, his mother abandons him, his father, and his younger brother, Liam. To comfort his father, Charlie recites his mother’s bedtime stories about a beetle. Sensing an opportunity, Charlie’s short-tempered, womanizing father shoves him into the role of the “world’s youngest published author,” pressuring him to write and promote the books they cobble together, wear a bug costume, visit schools, and attend conferences. It’s at these author gatherings that Charlie gets to know acerbic veteran author Mrs. M., with whom he forges an unlikely but crucial friendship. Now 18, Charlie is estranged from his family and living with his girlfriend Clara, who is growing increasingly frustrated with Charlie’s unwillingness to discuss his past. Willey expertly peels away Charlie’s backstory in flashbacks that alternate with present-day scenes that have Charlie wracked by horrific beetle-themed night terrors and consumed by guilt over abandoning Liam when life with their father became too much to bear. A potent story about the power that the past exerts on the present. Ages 13–18. (Sept.)