This novel’s title is a word play to Nirvana’s song “About a Girl” and the band is dragged through the book as a motive, mostly used to describe Ellie and her behavior.
The novel analyses the growing up theme, human’s relations and the responsibility we are supposed to take in life. Also the story emphasizes that with taking full responsibility we are placed in a position where other people will help us because they also take their full responsibility. An important part of the story is also talking about taboo themes such as mental illness, children abuse and suicide.
Mentally ill people, like Marcus’s mom Fiona, are often rejected by society because of fear and that makes their condition even more difficult. In the story we can see that she gets better when she finds company in Suzie, Will and others that don’t judge her because of a illness she is not guilty for. Through Marcus we see what’s it like to be abused by children in school and Marcus’s problem starts resolving when Will teaches him how to defend himself from other children.
The third important part of the story is children’s upbringing by a single parent and it is also one aspect of life often ignored by modern day society. The moral of the story about single parents is that families with one parent are worth as much as families with two.
In 2002 the book got a movie adaptation with the same name, directed by the brothers Weitz. The movie got good reviews and it raised the popularity of the book.
Marcus is a twelve years old boy that had just moved to London with his mother Fiona. She is divorced, trying to recover. Marcus has problems with fitting in to the new school. Will is a grown 36 years old man that acts like a teenager. He is rich, single and does not care about anything that isn’t his own pleasure.
He is a womanizer and he went to a support group for single parents hoping to find women he could date there. He met Suzie that told him about her son Ned.
Marcus came home from school that day and found his mother in a bad condition. She told him that he had to go to the group’s meeting with Suzie.
Marcus and Will met by accident on the group’s meeting when Fiona tried to take her own life. In the meeting Will told an invented story about his imaginary son and when Marcus and Suzie came home they found Fiona that tried to kill herself and they took her to the emergency room. She recovered physically but Suzie thought she could use somebody to share her problems with and start a family so she tries to convince Will and Fiona to go on a date. Will does not fancy Fiona so he goes back to his old life until one day Marcus came knocking at his door because he was scared Fiona will hurt herself again.
Marcus realized that Will lied about having a son and he told him he’ll tell the whole truth if he doesn’t go out with his mom.
Marcus starts visiting Will after school. One day Will opened the door to his apartment and sees Marcus being bullied and hit by bonbons because of his clothes. Will was very angry and at first he didn’t want to help Marcus because he was scared of the responsibility but in the end he did help him and thought him how to be a ‘’normal’’ kid and how to deal with his mom’s depression.
Marcus and Will became friends and the thought each other how to behave – Will thought Marcus how to enjoy life and Marcus thought Will how to accept and deal with responsibility. Will bought Marcus some new clothes but it gets stolen the other day. Fiona found out about their meetings and about Will’s lie about having a son so she forbids Marcus to see him anymore because she believed that Will could be a bad influence. Fiona was also scared that Will might use Marcus to meet new women because he had a bad reputation.
In school Marcus went to report the stealing and in the principal’s office he met Ellie – a young rebel and a big fan of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. Ellie became friends with Marcus because, as she say, she thought he was an interesting man.
Marcus invited Will to a Christmas party at his house. Even though Will did not like those kinds of parties he attended anyway. Fiona, Will and Marcus had a great time until Suzie arrived and realized that Will invented a son at the meeting just so she wo0uld sympathize with him. She believed that Will humiliated other people with his lying. Something big happened to Will at that party. He met Rachel and he fell in love. Will found out she had a son Allie so he invented that he also had a son from his first marriage and that his son was actually Marcus. Rachel invited him and his invented son over for dinner.
Will begged Marcus to fake that he’s his son and go to see Rachel with him. Marcus agreed. The problem was meeting Allie. He was furious about his mom meeting another man that is not his father so he started yelling at them. Marcus ran away and Will followed him. They became even bigger friends then.
Will fantasized about Rachel but he knew that he had to tell her the truth and that then everything will be over. Fiona started to get worse again and Marcus asked for Will’s help. Will was again afraid of the responsibility so he went and asked Rachel for advice.
Rachel offered to talk to Fiona but in the end she convinced Will to do it. Fiona sent Marcus to visit his father in Cambridge because he broke his arm. Ellie accompanied him. Ellie and Marcus saw in the newspaper that Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Ellie got so sad that she got drunk, jumped out of the train and threw a boot at a music shop that had a big Kurt Cobain’s poster on it.
The police arrested Marcus and Ellie because of the window breaking and they told them everything that happened. Marcus’s father comes to take them out of jail and he brings his new girlfriend along.
Soon after Fiona, Will and Ellie’s mother arrived to the station. They made Ellie meet the owner of the music shop whose window she broke. Ellie apologized to him. Marcus talked to his father but he didn’t mention his problems with his mom nor school. Marcus didn’t tell him about his problems because he grew up and was aware of the fact that he doesn’t have to depend on a father that’s never around because he has plenty of other people that are here for him. Those people were Will, Suzie, Fiona, Ellie and others.
Will realized that Rachel changed his life and he decided to take on the responsibility that comes with a love relationship and serious friendships with Suzie, Fiona and Marcus.
Time: 1993 and 1994
Characters: Marcus, Will, Suzie, Fiona, Ellie, Rachel…
Will – in the beginning Will is an arrogant womanizer that enjoys spending his money and he doesn’t worry about a thing. He acts like a spoiled teenager even though he is in his thirty’s and he takes responsibility for nothing. As the story goes on he gets more mature thanks to his friendship with Marcus because he thought him that life doesn’t revolve around making yourself happy. Will also falls in love with Rachel and he finally has important people in his life that make him a responsible person.
Marcus – a good and optimistic boy even though his childhood was rough. The other kids pick on him because he is quiet and wears old clothes. Marcus was very upset about him mothers attempt of suicide and because of it he confides in Will and they become friends. He gained more confidence and became friends not only with Will but with Ellie too.
Fiona – Marcus’s mother. She falls into a severe depression after her divorce and she sends Marcus to Suzie’s often so he wouldn’t have to see her in a bad condition. She tries to help herself but nothing works. Her struggle gets easier with Will’s and Suzie’s help.
Suzie – a family friend. She is a kind hearted one that takes care of her son but still finds time to take care of Marcus and help Fiona.
Ellie – a rebellious girl that loves Nirvana and their lead singer. She was Marcus’s first real friend and she thought him how to stand up for himself and fight for himself. Ellie is sometimes overly sensitive and she can’t deal with her emotions but she learns how to control them when she starts hanging out with Marcus.
Marcus’s father – he appears at the end of the story and we don’t get to know him very well. He is somebody that used to exist in Marcus’s and Fiona’s life but he’s no longer there. He loves his son but lives distanced from him.
About the author: Nick Hornby