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His Keepers Called Him Zoo Boy
Murphy's Boy - Torey L. Hayden
Member Name: wigglylittleworm
Murphy's Boy - Torey L. Hayden
Advantages: Follows one boys story
Disadvantages: not as good as other Torey Hayden books
Kevin's life is governed by Murphy's Law, if something bad can happen to him then it will. He lives Garson Geyer residential treatment centre for adolescents and has been nicknamed zoo boy by the staff there due to the fact he lives under the table and builds a cage of tables around himself in order to keep feel safe. The staff don't know what to do with this boy who was made a ward of state by his mother some years earlier, his records state that he used to talk but now he only rocks. His life is also dominated by a number of phobias, he is terrified of water so cannot bathe, has not been outside for several years, hates dogs, notebooks and sudden noises and cannot even change his clothes as he is superstitious about being naked even for a second.
Torey Hayden is called in by the home as a last ditch attempt to treat Kevin. Her expertise in the treatment of elective mutism means that she is the one most likely to be able to help him. Kevin is nearing his 16th birthday and the staff know that if he does not make progress then his adult life will be spent languishing on the back ward of an adult psychiatric hospital.
Torey works with child psychiatrist Jeff who describes Kevin as "The ugliest kid he's ever seen. Jesus, he looks like something a sheep threw up." Zoo boy seems like a useless case, one of lifes losers but he gives glimpses that he is not as dumb as he makes out by only communicates with his therapists when he knows no one is behind the mirrored glass wall of the therapy room. He reveals an amazing capacity for artwork as he begins to draw detailed pictures of decapitations and other angry scenes. It is clear that he harbours a murderous rage for his stepfather but the reason for that rage is not immediately apparent. It is clear that Torey and Jeff have their work cut out for them if Kevin is to have any chance of any type of normal future.
This book is written from the Torey's perspective working as a child psychologist treating a disturbed child and as well as documenting Kevin's struggle it also goes into detail about the type of constraints a child care worker faces. It is clear that they can be as disturbed as the rest of us when they discover social services fail to act to stop child abuse happening. The book is reflective in nature; this is good for the most part but can also get a bit long winded especially as Torey reminisces about her previous career as a special education teacher. There are many child abuse books out there, mostly written from the victim's point of view so it makes a nice change to see one that is well written.
The subject matter is not light but there are many lighter moments through the book too. Torey also volunteers for the Big Sister programme and is given a child called Charity to mentor. Charity is a nine year old Native Indian who lives with a huge extended family and her observations on the world can be hilarious. Torey also writes about her other relationships and her life outside work so the book is not all doom and gloom.
The book is more realistic than most books in this genre, readers who expect a miracle to occur will be disappointed to read about the small and slow victories gained when working with Kevin as well as the times he slips backwards too. It's different from Hayden's other books both because of the reflective nature of the book and because the child she is working with is going through the transition to adulthood, the book follows Kevin from the age of 15 until he is 18.
Overall the book is fairly good but not as good as Torey Hayden's other books where she writes about her career as a teacher and the younger kids she worked with. It's nice to see the way that Torey and Kevin develop over the years working together but it is slow reading in parts. If Kevin can make it in life despite his horrendous start then we should never give up on others like him.
Murphy's Boy by Torey Hayden is published by Mass Market Paperbacks and is an American book available from the Amazons marketplace from 33p. The book has since been republished for UK audiences under the name Silent Boy. It was released in April 2008 and is available from Amazon.co.uk for £4.29.
Summary: The boy who wouldn't speak
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