The acclaimed, poignant story of a boy with Williams syndrome, a condition that makes people biologically incapable of distrust, a “well-researched, perceptive exploration of a rare genetic disorder seen through the eyes of a mother and son” (Kirkus Reviews).
What would it be like to see everyone as a friend? Twelve-year-old Eli D’Angelo has a genetic disorder that obliterates social inhibitions, making him irrepressibly friendly, indiscriminately trusting, and unconditionally loving toward everyone he meets. It also makes him enormously vulnerable. On the cusp of adolescence, Eli lacks the innate skepticism that will help him navigate coming-of-age more safely—and vastly more successfully.
In “a thorough overview of Williams syndrome and its thought-provoking paradox” (The New York Times), journalist Jennifer Latson follows Eli over three critical years of his life, as his mother, Gayle, must decide whether to shield Eli from the world or give him the freedom to find his own way and become his own person. Watching Eli’s artless attempts to forge connections, Gayle worries that he might never make a real friend—the one thing he wants most in life. “As the book’s perspective deliberately pans out to include teachers, counselors, family, friends, and, finally, Eli’s entire eighth-grade class, Latson delivers some unforgettable lessons about inclusion and parenthood,” (Publishers Weekly).
The Boy Who Loved Too Much explores the way a tiny twist in a DNA strand can strip away the skepticism most of us wear as armor, and how this condition magnifies some of the risks we all face in opening our hearts to others. More than a case study of a rare disorder, The Boy Who Loved Too Much “is fresh and engaging…leavened with humor” (Houston Chronicle) and a universal tale about the joys and struggles of raising a child, of growing up, and of being different.
This terrific debut from Latson, a journalist, takes up the story of Eli and his mom, Gayle, when Eli is 12 years old. Any parent will recognize the factors in play: hormones, parental expectations for school, concerns about bullying, and so on. The multiplier effect for Gayle is her son's genetic disorder, known as Williams syndrome. Since Williams amps up the oxytocin in Eli's system, making him love everyone indiscriminately, Gayle has to teach her son skills that run counter to his nature but that may keep him safe. Eli's slowed development and stiff joints mean that complete independence from his mother at any future point is unlikely. Gayle, a single mom, confides, "I want him to live a long, happy life. I just want to be there for him.... If I could live just five minutes longer than he does, I'd be happy." The author skillfully interweaves the science what we do and don't know about genetic disorders such as Williams with a powerful story line. Eli and especially Gayle are beautifully drawn, and their struggles with an unknown future are both unique to their situation and universal to all parents. As the book's perspective deliberately pans out to include teachers, counselors, family, friends, and, finally, Eli's entire eighth-grade class, Latson delivers some unforgettable lessons about inclusion and parenthood.