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Binding: Paper
ISBN: 9780996864954
Pages: 192
Price: $16
Age: All Readers
When: December 2017

"Virtuosic McNally nails all the classic adolescent-male tropes."


In his first memoir, celebrated writer John McNally gives readers an honest and often mischievous look at his working class childhood in Midwestern America. This intimate, biting look into John's transient family takes readers through two states, five grade schools, 210 pounds, and a lifetime of insecurity.

Like Dickens's David Copperfield, he hopes to be the hero of his own story, but unlike David Copperfield, he is a fat boy who breaks kids' noses in karate and has fantasies of living in a nudist camp with his kindergarten teacher. He saves his family at age four but unwittingly commits a felony at age eight. From an explosive night living in an Illinois trailer park to tumultuous father-son bonding at the flea market, McNally gives the skinny on life being fat. Hilarious and poignant, McNally shows readers that, in the end, remembering one's bitter past can, in fact, be sweet.


"McNally comes across as a person who is fully comfortable with himself and the twisty mess that is being an imperfect person living in an imperfect world. Imbued with bald pain, pleasure, humor, and grace, McNally’s lean prose and unflinching insights make for a delightful read."

—April Line, Hippocampus Magazine

"John McNally's childhood was the perfect setup for a writer: fat, lonely, poor, reckless, seldom supervised, and filled with the power of his imagination. He writes with warmth and humor about his early years, and not a trace of self-pity or blame. Come for the story but stay for the prose. The book's structure is remarkable and innovative. John McNally has the rare skill of making difficult work look easy. This book will become a classic of memoir."

—Chris Offutt, author of My Father, the Pornographer and Kentucky Straight

"I don’t know where I’d be without John McNally. His effortlessly funny, marvelously crafted fiction is a joy and an inspiration. Now, with The Boy Who Really, Really Wanted To Have Sex, McNally has produced a vivid memoir of growing up in the seventies that might be his best work yet. The consideration he has given to his childhood experiences, to his family history, to his faults and his fascinations, is quick-witted and unsparing. I really, really hope you treat yourself to this fine book."

—Owen King, author of Double Feature and co-author of Sleeping Beauties

"John McNally's funny and heart-clenchingly sincere new memoir is such a familiar heartbreak that at times I had to set the book down and remedy my own past against it. The achy yearnings of a child who knows more than he understands creates a series of sorrowful longings, misplaced and misunderstood by nearly everyone around him, including McNally himself. Yes, there are shapely women, and young pretty girls who fill the space of fantasy and cravings, but McNally ultimately discovers how mysteries of the flesh and heart, once solved, can never truly satisfy the urge from whence they came."

—Deborah Reed, author of The Days When Birds Come Back

"John McNally’s work has always left me on a teeter-totter of sorts: laughing out loud one moment, wincing the next. The Boy Who Really, Really Wanted To Have Sex is no exception. We find discombobulated parents, girls who remain out of reach, a body that seems full of practical jokes, and pals who laugh at them: the trappings of a typical coming of age story. Yet in McNally’s hands, these mortifying years turn anything but typical. This is a horror story recounted by the finest of jesters in the court of the seventies and eighties which McNally delivers in the stunned and astute voice of a boy who just wants … well you know what he wants."

—Bruce Holbert, author of The Hour of Lead and Lonesome Animals

Sneak Peek: Prologue

Click here to download a PDF of the prologue!



John McNally is the author of three novels: After the Workshop, America’s Report Card, and The Book of Ralph; one YA novel, Lord of the Ralphs; and two story collections, Troublemakers (winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award and the Nebraska Book Award) and Ghosts of Chicago (a Chicagoland Indie Bestseller and voted one of the top twenty fiction books of 2008 by readers of The Believer). He has also written two books for writers: The Creative Writer’s Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist and Vivid and Continuous: Essays and Exercises for Writing Fiction. John’s work has appeared in over a hundred publications, including The Washington Post, The Sun, and Virginia Quarterly Review. A native of Chicago’s southwest suburb Burbank, John divides his time between Lafayette, Louisiana, where he is Writer in Residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Visit John online.