Cover image for Naked without a hat
Naked without a hat
Willis, Jeanne.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 2004.

Physical Description:
218 pages ; 20 cm
Promising to keep his mother's secret, eighteen-year-old Will moves into a house for people with disabilities, falls in love with a young Gypsy woman, and learns to assert his own identity and independence.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.0 7.0 79096.

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Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Life isn't going so well for 19-year-old Will. His mother is always nagging him about the lucky knit hat that he never takes off; his mother's boyfriend has forbidden Will to play "Wild Thing"--the only song he knows--on the guitar; and he just got fired from his job at Burger King. But Will's luck changes when he moves into a flat with Chrissy, James, and Rocko and gets a new job at the local park. At the park Will meets Zara, a gypsy girl whose family is camping there illegally. Will has never been happier. Until his mother threatens to ruin everything by revealing Will's childhood secret. Is Will and Zara's love for each other strong enough to survive? From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 8-up. What is it with 19-year-old Will? He has left his home, lost his job, and fallen in love with a seemingly unsuitable girl named Zara, a self-described dirty tinker, stupid didicoi, Gypsy, and Irish Traveler (the book is set in England). And what is it with his new roommates, Rocko, an artist who keeps a frankfurter for a pet, and James, who fancies himself another, more famous James--one with a license to kill? And what about the dark secret Will's mother made him promise never to tell? Might the puzzle have something to do with the scars around Will's eyes, his low IQ, and his nearly nonexistent senses of smell and taste? The mystery will hold most readers' interest, though the answers, when they finally come, are not terribly surprising, and the denouement is not a model of plausibility. Nevertheless, Will remains a sympathetic narrator throughout, and the offbeat information about the plight of Irish Travelers provides an engaging subplot. --Michael Cart Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Readers may have difficulty getting a handle on the characters for much of this British novel by the author of The Truth or Something. Protagonist Will, who moves out of his mother's home at age 19, appears weirdly naive for his years ("When I said goodbye, I told her there were raindrops on the inside of her glasses. She said yes, that's what they were and to ring if I needed anything"). Will's new boarding-house roommates, Rocko and James, also seem out of touch with the world. Their obsessions and eccentricities (like Rocko's refusal to remove a month-old, half-eaten sausage from the refrigerator and James's tendency to blurt out whatever sexual images are on his mind) are more puzzling and offensive than comical. The role of the boys' landlady, Chrissy, proves to be as confusing as Will's sudden romantic interest in a Gypsy girl who stole his wallet. At last Will's mother re-enters the scene to reveal some family secrets (namely, that Will has Down's syndrome and has had plastic surgery to conceal it). However, the information comes too late to revive interest, and while the news that Will is developmentally disabled helps makes sense of some of the fragmented components of the novel, it does not turn Will into an especially convincing or engaging narrator. Ages 14-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Will Avery, 18, has had it with life in the English suburbs with his mother and her boyfriend, so he takes a room in a house with three roommates. Rocko, a painter, is sweetly, childishly innocent, yet prone to fits of rage. James is loud, oversexed, and lives to inflame Rocko. Chrissy owns the house and takes casual, sisterly care of them all. Will falls in love with Zara, an Irish Gypsy who insists that he keep her background a secret from his mother. Unfortunately, that's not even the half of his mom's hang-ups-she freaks out when she finds out Will has sex at all, let alone with a dirty, thieving Gypsy. She forbids their relationship and threatens to divulge Will's own terrible secret to break them up. The first-person narration moves slowly, accentuated by Will's somewhat simplistic telling. The author overwrites her protagonist's wide-eyed wonder at adult life-he falls in love with Zara before they even have a date. Willis has a great ear for the snappy colloquialisms of Irish/English speech, and the story gains pace and humor when she lets the characters talk, especially Zara and her cantankerous parents. Despite believable dialogue, the major characters, especially Will, are one-dimensionally quaint-Zara is sprightly, the Gypsys are scrappy, Rocko's a nutcase, and Will watches, innocent. His deliberate telling makes more sense when his secret is revealed, but this comes too late in the narrative to captivate readers.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



chapter one I left home mostly because I don't like Ray. I called him a liar and a riot pig. I didn't mind him being in the police so much, but he worked nights, you know? He slept in the day so I couldn't play my guitar. I could play it anytime before he came along. Anytime, day or night. All afternoon if I felt like it and sometimes I did. It kept me from thinking. Now I couldn't play when I wanted and I wished to hell Ray wasn't my mother's lover. I told her that, but she didn't want to hear it one little bit. She just couldn't take it. She said she wanted us to be a happy family--Ray likes you, Will. He really does. No, really. How dare I call him a pig and a liar? She just stood there waiting for me to say sorry. I apologized for saying pig, but either he was lying or she was. I hoped it was him because say it wasn't? If my own mother was lying to me, how could I ever trust anybody? She always said I played a mean guitar. Those were her exact words. I took it to mean she thought I was good. I wanted to believe that but maybe it was just another lie. I taught myself mostly when we were living in Denver. I had an acoustic given to me by a Spanish guy, name of Pablo. A real old guy he was--skin so black and flaky he looked like he been smoked. He used to work the bars, and one time he saw me sitting lazy on a low wall and he sat down right next to me and asked what I was thinking. "What you thinking, boy?" and I told him I'm tired of thinking. "Don't think. Just listen," he said, and he shut his eyes like he was sleeping and played his guitar until my head filled with birds rising and the wind blowing the corn and I thought I would burst with the beauty of it. After, he took his guitar and put it in my lap. It fitted just right, like I was born with it there. I held it in my arms. Touched it. Stroked it. It felt like a living thing and I didn't want to put it down. "You have her," Pablo said. He had a deep laugh mixed with a cough. "Have my old lady. She's tired of old men's fingers." And that's how I got to keep his guitar. He came by on and off and showed me tricks. All different sorts of music--classical and rock. No one ever knew he came around except me. The wall where we played was out of the way. I used to wait for him there on warm evenings. He wouldn't turn up if it was too cold for shirtsleeves. He told me that. He told me a lot of stuff. I don't know how, because he never spoke much. He didn't seem to need many words. One day he just stopped coming. I don't know why. Died of drink maybe. Fell off a wall maybe. I missed him pretty bad, but the way to stop missing him was to play his old guitar. I played and played until I got it to sound just like him and as long as I kept playing, it felt like he'd never gone. One afternoon my mother came in from working on some campaign and caught me sitting on the swing seat in the yard. Rumpuss was under the swing chair licking his belly fur in the shade and I was playing "Wild Thing." I played it straight off--no fluffs. It sounded good but I never knew she was listening until I heard clapping. I turned round and there she was. Well, my mother couldn't believe what she'd heard and she said I played a mean guitar. Afterward she was always wanting me to play for people. I played for Ray. The first time he heard "Wild Thing" he said how good it was. He said it sounded just like the real thing but by the end of the week he'd gone off it big time. He shouted at me down the stairs--if I played that fucking song once more--just once more--he'd take my guitar and shove it up my ass. I got to thinking he'd lied about me being any good from the start and that's what finally made me want to leave. My mother came to my room after all the shouting and said she didn't want me to go--I didn't have to go--I was her baby, but then she stopped crying and said maybe I'd be happier doing my own thing and she'd help me find a place--just as long as I promised not to tell anyone about my secret. "What secret is that, Mother?" I always said that--like I'd forgotten. It was the only way to make her shut up. I wish I could forget and carry on as normal, only every time she told me not to mention it, she reminded me all over again, which was stupid. I told her that while we were packing. "Stupid? That's funny coming from you," she said. Why was I always picking on her after all she'd done for me? Why didn't I just leave her alone, for chrissake? She'd be glad when I was gone. I was happy to go. I'd had enough by then. I wanted her off my back. "Don't worry, I'm going," I said. "I wish you'd died instead of Sweet Caroline." "You know what, Will? So do I." Even so, she gave me a lift in the car. I wasn't too sure which bus to catch. It was spitting outside and it was too far to walk. When I said goodbye, I told her there were raindrops on the inside of her glasses. She said yes, that's what they were and to ring if I needed anything. Then she said, "Look, I know you think I'm going on and on but please don't tell anyone. Not even friends. For your own sake? And do you have to wear that hat? Take it off." I liked that hat. It was a part of me. I didn't see how my hat was any of her business. I was so glad to be leaving home, you know? I'd rather be in my own place doing things wrong than staying at home being told how to do them right. Excerpted from Naked Without a Hat by Jeanne Willis All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.