Title: Boy on the Edge
Author: Fridrik Erlings
Genre: YA Psychological Fiction
Number of Pages: 240
It took me a while to get into this book but I’m glad I stuck with it. Boy on the Edge does a bit too much telling rather than showing, which makes it feel bland at times, but the sense of melancholy is palpable and I loved the setting, a home for troubled boys on a remote Icelandic island. The main character, Henry, is a total outcast with a stutter, clubfoot, and dyslexia.
He’s bullied every day at school and one day he finally snaps, attacking his mom and breaking her arm. He’s sent to a farm run by a reverend and his wife, surrounded by formations caused by melted lava. He quickly bonds with the reverend’s wife but doesn’t take to the reverend, who uses stories of fire and brimstone to keep the boys in line.
Henry desperately wants to befriend the only boy his age on the island, John, but he doesn’t know how and feels left out when John’s friend Mark arrives on the island and they plan their escape. He’s put in charge of looking after the cows and he starts to love being around the animals. The reverend’s wife ends up adopting a precocious little boy named Ollie and Henry starts getting less and less attention from her.
Like I said, the setting is one of the most interesting aspects of this book; it was almost a character in its own right. I was surprised that Henry didn’t seem to feel more guilty over breaking his mom’s arm. He seemed to get over it fairly quickly and even wishes he had committed a more ‘serious’ crime to fit in with Mark and John. I was like dude, you broke your mom’s arm! That’s not serious enough for you?
It was pretty shitty how Henry ends up sending all those letters to Ollie when they’re adults without getting a response back. Henry dies fairly young while still living on the island (this is not a big spoiler; it becomes apparent within the first few chapters of the book) and even though Ollie decides to tell his story he should have been there for him when he was alive.
Overall I enjoyed this book and the descriptions of the island and it’s stark, unforgiving beauty transported me. I like how Henry falls in love with the island and makes it his home, even though his situation is far from idyll. It speaks to his resilience that he’s able to thrive there, despite everything.