"Boys Town"
by Jim Shepard
Originally published in the November 8, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.

I’m afraid that, as much as I usually like Jim Shepard’s work, this one didn’t do much for me. To be honest, I finished it about a week ago and haven’t had the will to write much on it.

As mentioned in the comments below, we have here a highly disturbed narrator. Suffering from PTSD, he is having an awful time trying to fit in to society. The people around him are not making it any easier. It’s really ugly, actually, because the narrator is brisk and not attractive, yet we sympathize with him because the people around him do nothing but complain about him. Comparisons are frequently made between the narrator’s situation and that of the more cared for boys in the Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracey film Boys Town.

There are some terrifying moments, like the one when we realize the narrator thinks he might, someday, have to resort to a stash of weapons and clothing he’s hidden in the woods.

Still, the voice, while convincing, was grating to me — probably more my mood at the time than any failing with “Boys Town.” Ultimately I’m afraid I just wanted to get through the story, and I wasn’t particularly satisfied with the ending.

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