Hogarth Shakespeare

New Boy

Publisher: Knopf Canada
"O felt her presence behind him like a fire at his back.”
 
Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote—“O” for short—knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day, so he is lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one boy, used to holding sway in the world of the school­yard, can’t stand to witness the budding relationship. When Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl, the school and its key players—teachers and pupils alike—will never be the same again.
 
The tragedy of Othello is vividly transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington school, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. The world of preadolescents is as passionate and intense, if not more so, as that of adults. Drawing us into the lives and emotions of four eleven-year-olds—Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi—Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by love and jealousy, bullying and betrayal, is as moving as it is enthralling. It is an unfor­gettable novel.

READ AN EXCERPT

Dee noticed him before anyone else. She was glad of that, held on to it. It made her feel special to have him to herself for a few seconds, before the world around them skipped a beat and did not recover for the restof the day.

The playground was busy before school. Enough children had arrived early that games of...
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PRAISE FOR

Othello as a seventies schoolyard drama? Yes, it works marvelously. The emotions of emerging adolescence are a potent brew, with friendships, rivalries, budding sexuality and the desire to fit in combining unflinchingly with the racism of the teachers (and some of the pupils). This is an evocative retelling of Shakespeare, and his characters’ interactions and motivations fit surprisingly well into the brutal world of childhood.” —Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat

“[H]ighly readable and immaculately researched. . . . [A] powerful exploration of betrayal and bullying—and casual racism.” —Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star

“This powerful drama of friends torn apart by love, jealousy and racism, bullying and betraying, makes New Boy an unforgettable novel.” —Heather Reisman, Indigo founder and CEO, CTV News (interview)
 
“Like all modern readings of Othello, Chevalier’s stresses not just the personal . . . but also the social. . . . Structurally, the novel is a marvel.” —Maclean’s

“[T]his new version of Othello. . . . reframes the story with modern issues of race, while staying true to the original tale of a villain who will stop at nothing to take his revenge.” —Rebecca Zamon, The Huffington Post (Canada)

“[D]on’t let the cast of schoolchildren fool you into thinking that this novel was written for children. One would hope that New Boy, as well as the others in the Hogarth Shakespeare series . . . will one day be plopped down onto the desks of students . . . This is the perfect answer to the constant student question—why do we have to read this old thing?—and it is proof of the usual teacher response—because it is still relevant. . . . New Boy not only allows a better understanding of Othello the play, but also the continuing issues of racism in our society. . . . Chevalier’s retelling brings it home and makes us question if our society today is really any better.” —Blair Mlotek, National Post
 
“[T]houghtfully done, and shows all the craft one would expect from the author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring.” —Owen Richardson, The Sydney Morning Herald

“What Chevalier has done is recast the play to illuminate the peculiar trials of our era. . . . In Chevalier’s handling, the insidious manipulations of Othello translate smoothly to the dynamics of a sixth-grade playground, with all its skinned-knee passions and hopscotch rules.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
 
Chevalier's book might be set in the seventies, but the feelings at play will resonate with anyone no matter their age. It’s a wonderful and stirring read in its own right—even if one has never read Othello—but fans of Shakespeare will especially enjoy the way Chevalier has modernized small details from the play for her version.” —Elena Pruitt, The Journal Gazette & Times Courier (Charleston) 

“Though set over a single school day, New Boy echoes with centuries of America’s history of racial conflict. . . . The school playground is a place for testing boundaries, and Chevalier is in her element, evoking its conflicts and tensions. . . . Osei’s struggle to find a safe space in this hostile environment is genuinely moving.” —Anita Sethi, iNews (UK)
 
“Chevalier manages to turn this story into a true tragedy, and to label it as young adult literature shortchanges this novella. . . . New Boy will appeal to adult Shakespeare lovers and to young adults who may only know Shakespeare because of a couple teenage lovers in Verona.” —Joseph Peschel, The News & Observer