The town of St. Andrews, unfamiliar to most, can be a mystery until experienced firsthand. With countless numbers of events to attend, societies to join, and courses to take, it can be hard to typify the St. Andrews student experience. The Boys Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a new novel by Lauren Mangiaforte, attempts to do this while providing a view of St. Andrews through the eyes of its students. A recent St. Andrews graduate, Mangiaforte has used her own experiences to create lifelike characters that live in the town of St. Albas, a fictionalised recreation of St. Andrews. The novel follows the story of two girls, Catriona Darlington and Julie Lovejoy and their circle of friends, including a Swiss philosophy student, a soon-to-be oil sheikh, a priest-to-be, a handsome and charismatic post-graduate, and a loveable, party-going American. Beginning at the end of their third year, the plot follows along for one year, from one May Dip to another, as the group grows closer to graduation. The year, of course, brings multiple love dramas, and plenty of conflict between them. But one year later, have any of the characters grown up? Are they ready for life post-graduation?
Although there is no explicit statement of any connection to St. Andrews, Mangiaforte does not go to great lengths to disguise the town as her muse, describing the small town club, ‘The Shark,’ the town’s main road, ‘Fair Street,’ and the town’s landmark gold course, ‘The Ancient Links.’ Some names of common town landmarks remain the same and the St. Andrews social calendar is delightfully accurate. For those who know St. Andrews well, The Boys Who Wouldn’t Grow Up will be a charmingly familiar depiction of our beloved town and the people who inhabit it. The experience of living in this town, the international community, the parties, and the eccentric traditions are all accurately recalled and skillfully described. At some points, Mangiaforte’s characters verge on satire and play with the ‘typical St. Andrews student’ stereotype rather than painting an objective picture. As a reader, you cannot help but wonder how closely these characters as based on people that the author really knew. This is an aspect of the novel readers will either find humorous or slightly unfair. Wealth and privilege pervades all aspects of the novel, with constant references to designer clothing and the characters’ opulent lifestyles. St. Andrews’ population of less wealthy students is somewhat ignored and skews the verity in the town’s depiction that the author is aiming for.
That being said, The Boys Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, is an entertaining sortie into the St Andrews student life, regardless of the relative exaggerations. So, if you’re growing tired of reading for exams in the upcoming weeks, or need a beach read for the summer, Mangiaforte’s light novel will be just the thing to remind of you of this extraordinary town.