Cover image for A troublesome boy / Paul Vasey.
A troublesome boy / Paul Vasey.
Publication Information:
Toronto : Groundwood Books, 2012.

Physical Description:
225 pages ; 18 cm


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VAS Paperback Teen Collection
VAS Book Teen Collection

On Order



A Kirkus Reviews Best Book About the Past, and selected as an Honor Book by the Society of School Librarians International

Teddy can't believe how fast his life has changed in just two years. When he was twelve, his father took off, and then his mother married Henry, a man Teddy despises. But Teddy has no control over his life, and adults make all the decisions, especially in 1959. Henry decides that Teddy should be sent to St. Ignatius Academy for Boys, an isolated boarding school run by the Catholic church.

St. Iggy's, Teddy learns, is a cold, unforgiving place -- something between a juvenile detention center and reform school. The other boys are mostly a cast of misfits and eccentrics, but Teddy quickly becomes best friends with Cooper, a wise-cracking, Wordsworth-loving kid with a history of neglect. Despite the priests' ruthless efforts to crack down on the slightest hint of defiance or attitude, the boys get by for a while on their wits, humor and dreams of escape. But the beatings, humiliation and hours spent in the school's infamous "time-out" rooms, and the institutionalized system of power and abuse that protects the priests' authority, eventually take their toll, especially on the increasingly fragile Cooper.

Then one of the new priests, Father Prince, starts to summon Cooper to his room at night, and Teddy watches helplessly as his friend withdraws into his own private nightmare, even as Prince targets Teddy himself as his next victim.

Teddy and Cooper's only reprieve comes on Saturdays, when the school janitor, Rozey, takes the boys to his run-down farmhouse outside of town, the only place where the boys can feel normal -- fishing, playing cribbage, watching the bears at the local dump. But even this can't stop Cooper's downward spiral and eventual suicide. And just when Teddy thinks something good might come out of his friend's tragedy, he finds himself dealing with the ultimate betrayal.

Author Notes

Growing up in Owen Sound, Paul Vasey endured a couple of stints at boarding school when he was nine, and again when he was fifteen: "My overwhelming feeling, especially at nine but also at fifteen, was of being betrayed; of being sent from a warm place to a cold one; of being sent away into the care of people who were only paid to care. A very lonely feeling." While he says he has never experienced the abuse suffered by many boarding-school boys, he did witness many scenes of cruelty and violence -- scenes that ultimately stirred his memories and fed this novel.

Eventually Paul got a job at the local daily, The Owen Sound Sun-Times, and from there went on to a stellar career in journalism -- print, television and radio. He has worked with The Windsor Star, Canadian Press, The Hamilton Spectator and the CBC (where he spent sixteen years as host of the morning show in Windsor, and two years hosting the morning show in Victoria, B.C.), and he has been awarded a Southam Fellowship for Journalists. He is the author of five novels for adults, as well as the nonfiction title, Kids in the Jail: Why Our Young Offenders Do the Things They Do (described by the Calgary Herald as "the most accurate and provocative demonstration yet of one of the most contentious issues of the decade"). As the board member of a mental-health treatment center for children and adolescents, he has seen how devastating abuse is for its victims, and how long-lasting its effects.

Paul lives in Windsor with his wife, Marilyn.

Reviews 1

Horn Book Review

After getting shipped to St. Ignatius, a Catholic boarding school for misbehaving boys, Teddy befriends troubled classmate Cooper. While nearly all must endure the physical and verbal abuse of the priests, Teddy helplessly watches Cooper descend into depression and hatred as a result of ongoing sexual abuse. Teddy's authentic voice powerfully recounts this tragic tale. (c) Copyright 2012. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Just when I was thinking St. Iggy's must be in the next county, there it was up at the top of the hill. Rita was right. Jeezus creepy place. Red brick, three stories, rows of squinty windows. Looked exactly like a prison. All that was missing was the barbed wire, a couple of turrets and some beefy guys with big guns. There was a wide drive leading from the road to the double oak doors. The sign out at the road pointed up the driveway: ONE WAY. Forty minutes after showers, most of the kids sleeping, those same creepy rubber-soled footsteps that I heard every night, flashlight scanning each bed. Then he came to Cooper's bed. He tapped Cooper with his yardstick, whispered, "Come with me." Waited. When Cooper didn't move, Prince tapped him harder. "Come with me, Cooper. Now." Cooper threw off the covers, reached under the pillow for his glasses, put them on, stood up and followed Prince out of the dorm, bare feet slapping the floor. The door swung shut behind him. Excerpted from A Troublesome Boy by Paul Vasey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.