Updated: Apr 7
Reviewed by Emma Megan for Readers’ Favorite *****
Boy Wander: A Coming of Age Memoir by Jobert E Abueva is a unique and poignant true story. It follows Jobert Abueva as he discovers who he really is. Jobert is a golden boy and the son of an academic and diplomat. Because of his father's career, Jobert and his siblings move from place to place to be together as a family. Thus, he goes through many places, radical changes, and adventures that are both amazing and distressing. But, besides excelling in academics and being an overachiever in many areas, Jobert has a big, dark secret to hide. No one knows the real him, and he intends to keep it that way. He decides to parade as a fraud in front of the whole world, until, hopefully, he will find a place where he has the freedom to be who he truly is. Boy Wander by Jobert E Abueva is a challenging, excruciatingly honest, and quirky memoir. It captures the complexity of accepting your own sexuality while struggling to meet societal expectations. Abueva's powerful story will resonate with many. He invites the reader to meet his true self, and by revealing his inner turmoil, he asks them to be more empathetic and compassionate toward other people's sexual orientation. Abueva's writing style is contemplative, mesmerizing, and almost poetic. Boy Wander is an absolute must-read contribution to conversations on sexual abuse, sexual orientation, desire, and relationships. The poem "Boat Girl" moved me deeply. I would recommend this searingly intimate memoir to fans of coming-of-age and LGBTQ novels.
Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers’ Favorite - *****
Boy Wander: A Coming of Age Memoir by Jobert E Abueva is a frank and sensitive telling of a young boy’s discovery of his sexuality and the realization that it did not fit into his family’s or society’s expectations. Jobert was the eldest son of a prominent Filipino professor, with strong political views and a history of public service. Sexually abused by one of his father’s colleagues at just six years of age, Jobert realized early on that he was different. Due to his father’s academic position and political activism, when Ferdinand Marcos seized control of the Philippines and declared martial law, the family fled the country. Jobert grew up attending international schools in Nepal, Thailand, and eventually Japan. In Tokyo, he excelled academically, culturally, and even in track and field. Elected to chair the student council, he was a popular and respected young man, but Jobert had a deep, dark secret. At night he would troll the shopping arcade beneath a famous international hotel, looking for foreign visitors interested in a brief sexual encounter, especially ones prepared to pay for the privilege. Managing to keep his private life and his sexual preferences a secret, Jobert finally found the freedom he sought when he traveled to attend college in America. I was initially attracted to Boy Wander because of its setting in Manila, where I live, and I did appreciate the references to Filipino culture, food, and locations. This story is much more than a travelogue. Jobert E Abueva has bravely and candidly opened up about his early life as he describes the two very different worlds he existed in, especially in Tokyo. That he was only sixteen whilst inhabiting this potentially treacherous world of gay pickups speaks volumes about his maturity and ability to compartmentalize his emotions. I particularly appreciated that he never allowed himself to become too emotionally involved with any of these brief encounters. I loved the sections relating to his prepubescent years when he describes his feelings and emotions regarding the young classmates that he was crushing on. There was an innocence and sweetness in the writing that was instantly appealing. I realize that this book covers only a small part of this author’s life leading up to his attending college in the United States and I am sure he has much more to tell us about his college adventures and later years. This story has truly whetted my appetite to read more of his life. This is a slightly different version of the conventional coming-of-age story and one that I enjoyed immensely. I can highly recommend this read.
Reviewed by Essien Asian for Readers’ Favorite - ***** (Five Stars)
With his parents more interested in surviving the notorious Marcos administration in the Philippines, Jobert E. Abueva's odd behavior was viewed as nothing more than childish misdemeanors at the time. He grew up to become a top member of his class, graduating as Class President and even acquiring childhood celebrity status with his face and family name being connected to a popular children's television program. Despite all these stellar achievements, there was a side to him that neither his parents nor the world ever came to realize. He was an abused child crying out for attention and who, in a bid to discover his true self, would go on to engage in scandalous trysts with strangers in hotels. Boy Wander is his tell-all memoir about this double life that nearly cost him everything he held dear. A child's innocence is stolen from him and leads him down a dangerous path to discovery in Jobert E. Abueva's memoir. He speaks honestly and bluntly about his experiences, sometimes a little too bluntly for the faint of heart. He can recreate the aura of childlike innocence of his youth impressively and translates that effectively into the book. Even the darker aspects are presented with a sense of naivety that may have made the book easier to digest but emotionally troubling. If there is one thing that is comforting it is the increased maturity that our young hero displays as he grows into accepting his sexual preferences, albeit clandestinely. I cannot imagine what it took for Abueva to bring Boy Wander to life. A thought-provoking book indeed.