Charles De Lint’s The Painted Boy

There is something both profoundly traumatic and intensely beautiful about the adolescent years. It’s what drew me to pursue a degree in criminal justice with a focus on juvenile social justice. It’s why I write so many fictional characters in their teens, why I love the young adult genre. Perhaps it’s also because as I was such an “emo” kid that I tend to seek out stories that reflect the emotions and troubles I can relate to from my past, and this genre is rife with these.

Today, I finished Charles De Lint’s The Painted Boy. It’s been many years since I read anything by him, but the name rings a chord in me, a memory of a fantastical world he created set in both our world and the realm of faerie. So, I gave this newer book a shot. It’s also a fantasy fiction set in a mythical, real to life world filled with gang violence, death, and music. However, it revolves around a boy who is a dragon. Or has a dragon inside of him. He’s not quite sure. His name is Jay Li, and he is on some sort of quest at the urging of his Paupau. He doesn’t know what kind of quest, or how to find it, or even if he’ll know it when he does. This book is about his journey, and the people, both human and fantastical, that he meets along the way.

Charles De Lint’s novel kept me riveted. I read the book in the span of a few hours. De Lint switched points of view throughout the book, but the  story was told primarily through Jay’s first person viewpoint. Normally, I hate dual and multiple POV’s, because they take away a certain element of surprise and mystery, and it seems are used as a crutch in YA fiction to make a story longer. All it does is make the reader not have to do any work by telling them a whole story instead of using the lack of words to tell the story. However, that being said, when used in certain ways I am not opposed to multiple POV. Due to the multifaceted plot line, I felt the telling helped to shape the story, and definitely didn’t give away too much.

Now, as much as I couldn’t put the book down, some parts didn’t feel completely fleshed out. I think this is because there were so many things happening to so many people at once. And despite Jay being the main character, he’s who I felt I knew the least. He was never given any hobbies, any musical tastes, and passions. Jay was a mystery. Maybe that was the author’s intent, due to his life’s purpose being a mystery. However, I think I would have been more invested in Jay if I knew some of the things he loved back home, things he missed, more about his past. I think the ending would have carried a lot more weight had we been given more of Jay’s personality.

So, all in all, I thought the book was pretty good. And for me to get into a book, it has draw me in immediately and keep me there, or I don’t waste my time. This book definitely wasn’t a waste of time.

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