Reviews > Published on May 13th, 2015

Bookshots: ‘Boo’ by Neil Smith

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review



Who wrote it?

Canadian writer Neil Smith, Three-time nominee for the Journey Prize. His debut collection, ‘Bang Crunch’, came out in 2007 and was chosen as a best book of the year by the Washington Post and the Globe and Mail. This is his second book.

Boo is a geek and a science nerd, with photos of Richard Dawkins and Jane Goodall taped up in his locker, trying to memorise the entire Periodic Table.

Plot in a Box:

Thirteen-year-old Oliver Dalrymple, nicknamed ‘Boo’, dies of what he thinks is his holey heart and goes to a heaven populated entirely by thirteen-year-olds from America. Johnny Henkel, a boy his own age from his school also turns up in the ‘terrarium’ the inhabitants call ‘Town’ and soon tells Boo that they were killed by a person he describes as ‘Gunboy’. They begin a quest to find this person, after Johnny thinks he’s seen the boy in Town, with disastrous results.

Invent a new title for this book:

I would call it: Heaven for Teenagers

Read this if you liked:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Meet the book’s lead:

Oliver Dalrymple is a geek and a science nerd, with photos of Richard Dawkins and Jane Goodall taped up in his locker, trying to memorise the entire Periodic Table. Nicknamed ‘Boo’ because of his pale skin and almost albino appearance, he is stoic and happy with his own company, as a result of years of bullying, but has a low tolerance for fantasy; he’s obsessed with science and facts.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Haley Joel Osment at his Sixth Sense age.

Setting: would you want to live there?

Heaven sounds a bit drab, with God, or ‘Zig’ as the inhabitants call him, supplying basic needs like food, clothing and survival, but leaving out things like ice cream, butter and sweets — and the sky is always grey. The buildings are utilitarian and self-repairing, named after fictional characters, like the “Frank and Joe” (Hardy) dormitory and the “Paul Atredes” infirmary. Think I’ll give it a miss.

What was your favorite sentence?

It is important to wash sweat and sebum from the body: even though things like cancer are absent from heaven, acne pimples, jock itch, and offensive odors are not.

The Verdict:

An intriguing book, with a peculiar (in my opinion) view of the afterlife where there are separate heavens for different populations and age groups, somehow mismanaged and/or neglected by whoever’s in charge. The characters are compelling, being 13-year-old kids sentenced to 50 years in this heaven to have the life they failed to have on earth: they end up adult minds in teenage bodies.

I found the story compelling, wanting to know what was going to happen and unsure as to how it was going to turn out from the beginning. Smith has done a great job of creating an afterlife that hangs together, much as the best fantasy worlds do, with the kind of detail included to suggest he’s spent a great deal of time thinking about it.

So yes, it’s worth reading, but don’t be surprised if the story doesn’t end up as you’d expect — the twists are well done and the end is nothing like I would have imagined.

About the author

Dean Fetzer is originally from a small town in eastern Colorado, but has lived in London, England, for 21 years now. On reaching London, he worked as a graphic designer and web consultant before starting a pub review website in the late 90’s.

His current book series, The Jaared Sen Quartet is set in near-future London, but also encompasses historical elements, reflecting his fascination with missing artifacts and conspiracy theories.

Dean left pub reviews behind in 2011 to concentrate on his writing and to set up a new company offering publishing services to authors, poets and artists as well as blogging and writing book reviews on his website at He lives in east London with his wife and two cats and dreams (often) of a house in France.

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