Social and historical context

About a Boy was published in 1998. Its author, Nick Hornby, was born in 1957 and is a novelist, essayist, lyricist and screenwriter. He uses his own experiences of being the child of divorced parents – they divorced when he was 11 – and also of suffering from depression, to inform his writing. Hornby has a son who suffers from autism, and he was involved in the setting up of a charity which aims to help children with this condition.

About a Boy is concerned with two ‘boys’ who find it hard to join mainstream society and who constantly feel like outsiders. The book investigates what is meant by ‘normal’ behaviour. Marcus knows that he is different from most other 12-year-olds. He has been so influenced by his mother’s strange tastes in clothing and music that he has no idea how to behave ‘normally’. On the other hand, Will is just an overgrown child. He thinks that he is cool because he is single and goes out clubbing, knows which clothes to wear and which music to listen to. He does not realise that it would be more ‘normal’ for him to settle down and behave as other people in their mid-thirties do.