The Boys Who Woke Up Early Book Review and Book Cover

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This debut novel about friendship, trust, and social and personal change belongs at the top of every bestseller’s list, book club selection, and #tbr stack. And I won’t be surprised when this story makes it to the big screen.   

Absolutely loved this coming-of-age story from start to finish – from the flawed, but likable, characters to the authentic storytelling and dialogue to the realistic setting of the civil rights tension of the 50s and 60s as seen from the perspective of teenagers – specifically three boys, Jack, Stony and Roosevelt. I especially appreciated that the most progressive and influential character, Mary Lou, was female.  

While this is A.D. Hopkin’s first novel, his 46 years as a journalist – most of it as an investigative reporter – prepared him to deliver a page-turning literary account of challenges faced during social change and equality and the resilience required. Challenges that are still, unfortunately, making headlines today decades later.   

Here are a few of my favorite lines that poignantly captures what many of us observe, but may find difficult to articulate. There are several more I highlighted, but don’t want to add a spoiler alert to my book review.  

Childhood friendship and choices

“They all wanted the same baseball cards and all expected to play for the Yankees someday. At nine, they hadn’t yet made the choices, good and bad, that would make them different from one another.” 


“When you start over where nobody knows you, you can make up a past that includes all you wish you’d done and leaves out the stuff you regret.” 

Strengths transcend shortcomings

“Jack could do other stuff besides lie, it seemed, and some of it was right cool.” 


“Whatever trouble was to come, we cooked it up among ourselves in Early County.” 


“…a bullet in anybody’s heart was one in somebody else’s. 

Special thanks to Smith Publicity and the author, A.D. Hopkins, for an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.  

And it is honest. I only give 5* to those stories that are relatable and that I connect with personally and emotionally. We all need a support system of friends and family who nurture us and help us grow and become a part of something bigger than ourselves. This book is a good reminder that we are all connected and shaped by the choices and the people we cross paths with in our lives – the good and the bad.  

My only criticism is that I would have loved a little more character development of Mary Lou. Something tells me it’s a possibility (or it could just be wishful thinking and me reading into something more than it is). 

When I’m sad as I read the last page of a book, and the story stays with me days later, that’s when I know I’ve discovered something very special. I think you will too.  

Currently reading: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller


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