Title: Golden Boy
Author: Abigail Tarttelin
Publication Date: 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
Number of Pages: 352
Awards: Alex Award
Genre/Subgenre: Realistic Fiction
Golden Boy Max is forced to come to terms with his intersex identity after a traumatic event.
From the outside, Max Walker seems like the typical golden boy: he’s handsome, athletic, smart, and popular. However, Max and his family have a secret that they’ve been keeping his entire life: Max was born intersex. He and his family are able to keep this secret from the rest of the world until in a random act of violence Max is raped by the son of family friends. Max struggles to keep his assault a secret from his parents, friends, and new girlfriend, especially when he discovers that, despite the odds, he is pregnant. When the truth does come out, Max feels pulled in a multitude of directions – to terminate the pregnancy and continue living as a boy, to have more surgeries to remove the female parts of his anatomy, to keep the baby because it may be the only chance he will have to procreate. Ultimately, the decision is made right before surgery by Max’s mother: to go through with the abortion but to postpone further surgeries for the time being as Max wishes. Her decision, made in a moment, is devastating to Max, who remained unsure about termination. This causes unthinkable damage in the Walker family, including the breakdown of the marriage between Max’s parents. Ultimately, however, Max does reach a new level of self-acceptance and decides not to further alter his body or try to be one gender or the other.
I thought Golden Boy was a really wonderful book. Max is an extremely compelling protagonist and I think that young readers will be able to relate to his struggles with self-identity. The beginning of the novel, in which Max’s rape occurs, is really difficult to get through and might be too much for some teenage readers, but otherwise I think the material would be suitable for older teens and up.
Why I Chose the Book:
I wasn’t very familiar with intersexuality, and I had heard that this was a very well-written and engaging portrayal of life as an intersex teenager.
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Book Talk Ideas
This book could pair well with programming around LGBT Pride Month.
1. How does Max’s rape and subsequent pregnancy change the way he views his gender identity?
2. This novel is told from Max’s point of view, but also from the point of view of his parents, his little brother, his girlfriend Sylvie and his doctor. How do these varying viewpoints contribute to the narrative?
Amazon (2014). Golden Boy: A Novel: Abigail Tarttelin. Retrieved from:
Goodreads (2014). Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin. Retrieved from:
Tarttelin, A (2013). Golden Boy. New York, NY: Atria Books