My Reading of ‘About a Boy’

With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy? – Oscar Wilde

Before reading about the analysis of the book and my final impression take the time to read about how I chose the book and my first impression of it of it.

Literary Analysis


monochrome photography of person on dark room

The theme of the book ‘About a Boy’ by Nick Hornby is loneliness. Throughout the book, you are introduced to different characters who feel lonely. Evidence of this is when on multiple occasions, characters like Will tries to find a girlfriend to keep him company in order to not be so lonely. Will shows how lonely he is when he twists a quote from a book by John Donne and says that “Every man is an Island.” showing that he believes that we are alone rather than relying on each other and each others company like the quote originally goes “No man is an island, entire of himself”. Another example of why loneliness is a theme is this story is because of both Marcus and his mother, Fiona, struggle with feeling alone. For Fiona, it is rougher than for Marcus. She has been diagnosed with depression and tries to commit suicide. Marcus, however, feels alone because he is missing an important father figure in his life and blames himself for his mother’s misfortunes. All of the three more important characters have a sense of loneliness throughout the book that slightly lessens, which is why I feel it fit to decide that loneliness must a theme.

affection afterglow backlit blur

Another theme of this story is relationships. Because Will feels lonely he continuously tries to create more relationships with people around him. Mostly he tries to find a romatic partner, but he also creates friendships along the way. Both with Marcus, Fiona and other characters. Marcus also tries to make new relationships. In the hope that his mother will feel better, he tries to set her up with Will, who is uninterested. He also tries to find a romatic partner in Ellie, a girl who is three years older than Marcus and who intimidates him. However, he discovers throughout the story that a possible relationship with this girl is not possible and if it were, it would be toxic. Therefore, he decides towards the end to end the friendship he has with her. He realizes how important it is to have relationships with people you can trust and therefore realizes how much he enjoys Wills’ company and as he says “Suddenly I realized – two people isn’t enough. You need backup. If you’re only two people, and someone drops off the edge, then you’re on your own. Two isn’t a large enough number. You need three at least.”. 


big ben bridge castle city

For most of the plot, the book is set in London. This contributes to how Marcus acts as it is a new experience for him, living in a grand city where he does not fit in and is bullied at his school because of this.  For Will, however, London is a similar setting as he lived there his whole life; “He walked down the familiar streets of London.” Because of this, he sees London as a city full of fun and excitement while Marcus only views London with dread and as a city full of peril.


The book is set in London in 1993 and centers around the to male protagonists, Marcus, and Will. Marcus is a twelve-year-old boy who is described as “introverted” by his suicidal mother, even though he has tendencies to bond with people. Will is a 36-year-old bachelor who wishes to date single mothers and therefore signs up for a group where single parents meet in order to bond with similar people. since Will is not a single parent he invents a son and joins the next SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together) day. Here he meets Marcus as Marcus mother Fiona is alone.


After an incident at the park where Marcus accidentally kills a duck with a piece of bread, he returns to his home with Will who drove him to find his mother overdosing on sleeping drugs. This leads to Marcus and Will creating a bond that grows throughout the novel, even though Will is largely uninterested in the beginning. Consequently, Will tries to teach Marcus how to be a “cool kid”, which unfortunately only leads to Marcus being bullied even more.  Luckily, he soon finds a friend, actually a crush, in Ellie. Ellie McCrea is a girl who attends Marcus’ school. While all of this is going Marcus’ father falls during a D.I.Y project and has “a big think” which leads to him calling Marcus to his home in Cambridge because he perhaps realizes that he has not been the best father to Marcus. However, Marcus never reaches his father as he brings Ellie along for support who gets them both arrested on the way. the reason for the arrest is because Ellie smashes a window of a shop with a carboard-cut of Kurt Cobain in the belief and accusation that the shopowner is trying to “make money off of him” after his suicide.

man and boy sitting on floor near body of water

Will, at the same time, falls in love with a woman named Rachel who has a son the same age as Marcus. in the beginning Will and Rachel fight because Will pretends that Marcus is his son, but they eventually make up. Consequently, Will learns more about what and how to appreciate life and realizes that he treasures the friendship with Marcus way more than what he originally believes.

The novels ending is set at the police station where Marcus was taken after being arrested. It ends with a three-part-dialog between Marcus, Will, and Fiona where they discuss Marcus potentially playing a piano piece at school. Which leads to Marcus making a comment about how he hates the artist. consequently, making Will smile and think that ” …[he] knew that Marcus would be OK.”

Character Development

The story is about a twelve-year-old boy named Marcus Brewer who lives with his chronically depressed mother, Fiona, in their small apartment in London. Both of these characters act very different; Marcus will do anything in order to make his mother feel better, even if it causes him grief. He is very self-perceptive and knows that he is different from the other kids and partially talks down to himself and mocks himself without even realizing he is doing it. Throughout the book, he develops a friendship with Will and starts changing how he views things and himself. By the end of the book, Marcus has proven to be a dynamic character that has changed from being a weak boy to a boy who has learned more about why most parts of life can be challenging and why he needs to work but at the same time allow himself to rely on other more knowledgeable people.

macbook pro

The other main character of this story is Will Freeman, who is thirty-six and a freeloader who has never worked in his life, thanks to a song that his father wrote. He is a womanizer and prides himself on being a “selfish bastard”, he is also hedonistic, immature and terrified of commitment. When he first meets Marcus, he does not really know how to act as he has never faced the challenges that Marcus is facing. therefore, his first instinct is to turn Marcus away due to his selfish thinking. However, he too changes throughout the plot and becomes a person who is supportive of Marcus and tries to help others.

My Final Impression

This novel was in my eyes a very well written novel with a good story and I really enjoyed reading it. It rose up to all my expectations and I especially loved how the plot was very unpredictable and therefore I was surprised by a few plot twists. These plot twists made the book exiting and with touches of humor which I appreciate. I found that reading this book was not what I am used to and what I usually prefer but I still realized that it was a good read, even though my preference is for the most part crime novels. overall the reading experience was a pleasant experience and I look forward to reading more Nick Hornby novels.

woman reading a book sitting on mattress near the blue string light inside the room
Photo by Ivandrei Pretorius on

Questions to reflect on

  1. Why was Marcus attracted to Will?
  2. How is the setting relevant to the characters?
  3. How do the different themes connect?
  4. Marcus’s mother, Fiona, tries to commit suicide. Do you personally judge parents who kill themselves?
  5. Why did you make a pivotal scene set at the Christmas dinner?




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