Cover image for Golden boys
Golden boys
First U.S. edition.
Physical Description:
238 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
960 L Lexile
Geographic Term:
Rex and Tabby Jenson and their sons, Colt and Bastian, arrive in Freya Kiley s Australian neighborhood with little fanfare, but their presence sends fissures throughout their modest community.


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With masterful nuance and vividly drawn characters, Sonya Hartnett's novel visits a suburban neighborhood where psychological menace lurks below the surface.

Colt Jenson and his younger brother, Bastian, have moved to a new, working-class suburb. The Jensons are different. Their father, Rex, showers them with gifts -- toys, bikes, all that glitters most -- and makes them the envy of the neighborhood. To the local kids, the Jensons are a family out of a movie, and Rex a hero -- successful, attentive, attractive, always there to lend a hand. But to Colt he's an impossible figure: unbearable, suffocating. Has Colt got Rex wrong, or has he seen something in his father that will destroy their fragile new lives? This brilliant and unflinching new novel reveals internationally acclaimed author Sonya Hartnett at her most intriguing and psychologically complex.

Author Notes

Sonya Hartnett was born on March 23, 1968 in Victoria. She is an Australian author of fiction for adults, young adults, and children. She was thirteen years old when she wrote her first novel and fifteen when it was published for the adult market in Australia, Trouble All the Way. For years she has written about one novel annually. According to the National Library of Australia, "The novel for which Hartnett has achieved the most critical (and controversial) acclaim was Sleeping Dogs" (1995). "A book involving incest between brother and sister and often critiqued as 'without hope', Sleeping Dogs generated enormous discussion within Australia. For her book Thursday's Child, she won the annual Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime book award judged by a panel of British children's writers.

Her titles include: The Boy and the Toy, Come Down, Cat!, Sadie and Ratz and The Children of the King. She will be attending the Sydney Writers Festival 2015. She made the shortlist for the Miles Franklin Literary Award with her title Golden Boys. This title also made the 2015 Prime Minister's Literary Awards shortlist.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

When the affluent Jensons move into town, it's difficult for the neighborhood children to see past the allure of the fancy toys, bikes, and aboveground pool that sons Colt and Bastian have. Syd Kiley, his brother Declan, and their friends Avery and Garrick befriend the new boys, while Syd's oldest sister, Freya, takes a shine to Mr. Jenson, idolizing this more attractive counterpart to her own drunken father and chaotic family. It's clear that unhappiness simmers beneath the surface in this neighborhood, with everyone believing that "the things they don't want are all they have." But similarities exist between these disparate individuals, and as Hartnett's narrative methodically unfolds, lurking secrets reveal themselves, with many children paying the price for their parents' failings. Writing in an Australian vernacular and alternating among the perspectives of Colt, Freya, and Syd, Hartnett (Butterfly) skillfully weaves metaphors and foreshadowing into her affecting prose, such as Freya's view of the world as a castle to explore, and her darker vision of a haunting yellow-eyed monster. Hartnett's examination of different forms of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse is an unsettling, often brutal must-read. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Colt's dentist father, Rex, appears to be a loving parent who gives his boys only the best. But Colt knows that, with Rex, "there's always some small cruelty." When the children in their new neighborhood become enamored with Rex, Colt wonders if Rex's wrongness is something only he sees. A mature, quiet, and intense story in which children suffer consequences for adult wickedness. (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Rex and Tabby Jenson and their sons, Colt and Bastian, arrive in Freya Kiley's Australian neighborhood with little fanfare, but their presence sends fissures throughout their modest community. Rex showers his boys with gifts, but Colt feels nothing but resentment for their piles of toys. Their bounty, however, is a beacon for the other neighborhood boys, and soon Declan and Syd, Freya's brothers, along with oafish bully Garrick and willowy Avery, can't help but lurk in the Jensons' yard, while Freya finds herself seeking advice from Rex about her parents' volatile marriage. Rex is an effusive host, quick with a joke and eager to please, but it's not long before it becomes clear that Rex's generosity and sunny disposition are a shroud for something dangerously narcissistic, if not outright sinister. Hartnett spins her tale with stunning subtlety, building tension in tiny doses with measured sentences and potent metaphors. Rex's keening voice is the frustrated sound of a night-hunting animal or accused prince, while Freya's father's anger is a quicksandy pit. With the exception of Freya's father's drunken rages, the action is surprisingly mundane, nothing more than a bike ride, a conversation over tea, or scuffle between boys, but Hartnett teases so much from those minuscule moments that they spill over with a low-level, snowballing thrum of imminent violence and heartbreaking significance. Astoundingly brilliant.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2016 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up-There is something unsavory about Colt's father, and readers will feel that right away. Teenage Colt is one of two principal interior narrators and the new kid on the block. His father, Rex, is a dentist and flaunts his wealth by buying a pool and cool toys for the neighborhood boys. Through Colt's eyes, readers see revulsion and awareness of his father's ploys but not much concrete evidence of his father's guilt. The work is written in a timeless gothic tone with rich symbolism and figurative language. The other narrator, Freya, the eldest of six children of an alcoholic printer, is losing faith in God and looking for a hero. Freya's father is a wife beater, and she and Declan, the oldest boy, take the brunt of the responsibility, as does Colt, when Rex proves that he is not the hero she imagines. What is remarkable about this novel is the way in which every character is developed through shifting points of view, such as through the neighborhood bully, Garrick, and neglected waif Avery. The book is a portrait of a working-class neighborhood. Readers will muse over all the relationships in order to ascertain why violence is so often misdirected with the worst offenders remaining unscathed. -VERDICT An absorbing read for mature teens, ready to face the ugly truth of scapegoating to maintain social cohesion, however broken.-Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

The arrival of two wealthy boys to a working-class neighborhood brings the strained intensity present in both theirs and another home to a boil in this latest from Hartnett, first published in 2014 for adults in her native Australia. Twelve-year-old Colt and 10-year-old Bastian are showered with the newest and best of everything by their dentist father, but his generosity is laced with a poisonous solicitude, and he eventually causes strife among their new neighbors. At the same time, 12-year-old Freya is the oldest in a large family and is resentful of her cramped, meager circumstances. She's recently begun to realize her parents' marriage is deeply troubled and struggles to find support in coping with her father's alcoholism and violence. Hartnett sets this tale in an unspecified time before mobile phones and computers, the neighborhood evidently largely white. The language is mesmerizing, her phrases exquisitely crafted, particularly when describing rot and waste, where they take on an almost gothic style: "It's an unlovely, ramshackle place, thrumming with insects, thorny with blackberry and thistle." The menacing dynamics present in so many of the relationships are persistently disquieting but also authentic, and a tone of dread pervades, though in the end, events are understated. Sophisticated teen readers will be wowed by this gorgeous, tension-filled novel, but its more natural audience may be adults. (Fiction. 13 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.