The cool Boffin







Richard Hodgson has been a boffin for the first fifteen years in his life which means to try to be a good boy always and everywhere and to suppose that school is the only meaning of life. So he has only a few friends and is rather unpopular. Then one day as Richard waits at the bus - stop he decides suddenly not to go to school and stumbles towards the common. He thinks about all the humiliation he has to take at school and dreams about a life, in which he is cool and accepted by everyone.
When the skive is over, he finally goes to school. There he has told that his bus has had a terrible accident. When they see that the Boffin's all right he has to tell each detail to his mates Steve, Danny, Tim, Anna and Ashley. Of course he doesn't mention that he has been skiving, but instead he makes up horror stories and enjoys his sudden popularity. For Richard is this bus accident a sign to change his boffin - life: he decides to cut his hair, wear new clothes - and go to Ashley's party on Friday.
Next day he buys clothes in a posh shop, but doesn't notice that he has bought a faked T - shirt. Richard hides his new stuff in his locker in school. Just at that moment Tim Grant throws a water bomb on him. Richard gets angry and according to his new image he shouts at Tim and throws the bomb back on Tim. But Richard knows that Tim will take revenge. Richard's only real friend is Mouse (he's a boffin too). He doesn't want Richard to go on Ashley's party. Nor Mouse likes his new image, too. He tells Richard that he will regret going to this party.
Friday is party - day. Richard wears his new clothes (his mother still doesn't know about them, but is really shocked about his short haircut), and is pleased that nearly everybody likes his new outfit. When Tim Grant is entering, Richard gets some problems with him, because Tim doesn’t like Richard. Ashley invites Richard to have a drink. She tells him about her relationship with Steve (who is a kind of protector of Richard) and that Steve has broken up with her and wants now to go with Anna.
Next day in the library he's talking with Mouse about the party, when Steve appears and asks Richard to come with him. Steve leads him onto the school - field, where all the mates (also Tim Grant) are already waiting. Steve forces Tim to apologise and make peace with Richard. They return too late to a lesson and after Richard has had (according to his new image) a big talk, he and Steve are sent to Mr. Widdle's office.
Steve invites Ricky (so is Richard's new name) to buy trendy clothes and asks him to come tonight to the Fleur pub. He also tells Ricky to drink alcohol and even to try a cigarette. Ricky has a really good time in the pub. He's talkative and funny and makes new contacts, especially with Ashley. Suddenly a rumour spreads that police is coming. But Ricky and the mates leave the pub through the toilets under the leadership of Steve. Steve, Anna and Danny decide to go to a different local, so Ricky lefts - with Ashley.
Ricky walks on air. He talks with Ashley about nothing and everything. She invites him to her home and tells him more about her love to Steve. He assures Ashley that Steve will break up with Anna and will come back to Ashley. And Ashley really believes every word, which is Ricky saying. For Ricky this has been nearly a perfect night. At the weekend Ricky's sister Kay and her husband Justin come for a visit. Ricky hasn't got much friendly feelings towards his sister any more, so he doesn't care. While they 're all in the lounge talking, the doorbell rings - it's Ashley. She pretends to ask Ricky for his geography notes, but then begs him to ring up Steve, to ask if he's with Anna. He immediately does and therefor gets a kiss.
A month later Ricky thinks he has found his real me. After Ricky has written a totally missed classwork, his teacher wants to talk with him - and hands him out his report card. Since the bus crash Ricky's behaviour in school has changed completely. He has became a real trouble - maker. Ricky and his mates play tricks on their teachers. Ricky gets punished by going to the headmaster. It seems as if Slap - Head was only going to moralise, but when Ricky replies the way, he's not expected to, Slap - Head threatens to suspense him. The Headmaster is just about to ring up Ricky's mother, when he starts to plead not to do that. So Ricky promises to change and work harder. For him it's a load off his heart, when he's dismissed without any punishment.
After he as gone through this, Ricky's is preparing for the party he is going to give. He has already bought masses of food - and of course alcohol. After Ashley has come first, hugging Ricky, a lot of guests come. Something is running wrong, the party is out of Ricky’s control. When Anna arrives, Steve wants to talk to her just for a minute, but then he leaves Ashley (with whom he had been first) and spends the whole evening with Anna.
After Mouse lefts shocked the party, Ricky is really down. He looks out for Ashley. She's sitting pathetically in the garden and is saying no single word. Ricky does his best to comfort her - but without any success. Ashley only wants to talk to Steve. But he thinks she's mad and stays inside the house. Ashley leaves the party. Then the party comes to a sudden end. The police is called by a neighbour and ends the event immediately. Some of the mates stay and help Ricky cleaning up the house, but there is still a horrible mess when they're leaving and Ricky goes to bed.
When Ricky awakes a few hours later, there's smoke everywhere in his room. He desperately tries to get out and to put out the curtains, that have caught fire. Just in the moment he 's extinguished the fire, his parents come back. First they are scared to death, but relieved, seeing their son all right. When they notice the mess, Ricky confesses everything. He tells about the party that was out of control. He offers to work as long as it would be necessary.
Ricky thinks that this fire was a sign again - and changes his name into Rich. He tries to contact Ashley, but she's never at home and she's also not in school the whole week. He gets to know that Ashley was going to leave to London every minute. He is really puzzled, breaks his friendship with Steve, who forces him to stay, and runs towards to central bus station, from where he expects Ashley to leave. He catches Ashley in the very last minute. He doesn't not succeed in persuading her to stay. She tells Rich that she has written him a eleven - pages letter. They give each other a long hug and promise to remain in contact and to be friends forever. Then Ashley leaves. That is the end of the story.

Main Characters

Richard Hodgson:
He's the hero of this story. Richard is a boffin, who dreams of changing his image and of a life in coolness as Ricky. The turning point of his life is the bus crash. He starts his new existence under the protection of Steve. Ricky is a weak - willed individual, but when he's with Ashley the first time the real character - development starts. There's the main conflict, Ashley's love towards Steve and Ricky's (other kind of) love towards Ashley on the one hand, and Ricky's dependence on Steve on the other hand, that makes it difficult for Ricky to find the real me. In the end of the story he thinks he has found that real me. But it is not the Boffin, neither is it Ricky. The changing of Richard's names is also symbolic for his way of searching. To the Richard Hodgson, as he is described in the end, belongs more than to be sensible and clever (Boffin) and cool and daring (Ricky). He has learnt that the real important things in life are to be able to make real friends (Ashley) and to recognise these as the only true ones. He also doesn't refuse his parents, like he had done when Steve told him to. In the end Richard is a mature person, who has learnt a little bit about life. The end is open, but the author makes sure that Richard will go his (right) way.

Steve Almond

Steve is the big idol and protector of Richard. He introduces him into the society of the "Lads". Richard tries to copy everything, that Steve likes or does. Steve selects his clothes and makes Ricky smoking and drinking. Steve is a trouble - maker in school, but some teachers forgive him, by telling that they were as dashing and courageous when they had been young. He is the born leader, seems to be smart and clever, but does everything that is for his own benefit. Steve has once been in love with Ashley, but now he goes with Anna.

Ashley Saltmarsh

Ashley still loves Steve, although he doesn't want her any more. She likes it when Ricky comforts her, and assures her that she will get Steve back. Ashley is an attractive girl and likes to change the colour of her hair. Ashley's parents live in divorce, she and her sister stay at her dad's. Ashley becomes a real friend to Richard, but doesn't love him. After Ricky's party and Steve's unkind behaviour she is deeply depressed and seems to hate Anna, who has been her best friend for quite a long time. Ashley's friendship towards Ricky finds it's high point when Ashley is going to leave with the bus - this makes the story coming to a happy end.


Mouse was Richard's only boffin. He doesn't care about being mocked and isolated. His real friends are "books and his brain". He is sorry to lose Richard, but is absolutely unwilled to change his image too. For Mouse school, education and science are the most important things.

Personal opinion

"The Cool Boffin" showed the development and re - development of a personality. The searching of Richard for his real me was sometimes described in a funny way. His clumsy trying to be cool, a full member of society invited me to smile. But the main conflict, the relationship between Steve, Richard and Ashley, seemed to be unsolved for a long time.
Nevertheless I liked the book although I normally don’t like happy ends.

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