“Belle Prater's Boy” is a young adult novel that centers around the friendship of two cousins, Gypsy and Woodrow, and how they learn to cope with the loss of their parental figures.
Gypsy's aunt, Woodrow's mother, mysteriously disappears without a trace, leaving Woodrow to be looked after by his impoverished grandparents. Woodrow's grandparents happen to live next door to Gypsy and her family, who has a much wealthier and more privileged upbringing. Initially, Gypsy is excited to have a mystery to solve and hopes that Woodrow can give her clues about the disappearance. What follows is the story of two children learning to see beyond first impressions, developing a true friendship and finding the strength to confront the demons of their past.
After getting to know Woodrow, Gypsy learns that he has calmly accepted the disappearance of his mother and firmly believes that she's trapped between two worlds. Gypsy has trouble with his calm acceptance, since she has always had a problem accepting her own father's death and struggles to build a relationship with the stepfather figure in her life. Through the befriending of an ugly man named Blind Benny, they both learn to look past outer ugliness to the person beneath. Later in the book, Gypsy has to confront the fact that her father committed suicide, while Woodrow learns to accept that his mother simply walked away from their life to begin another one elsewhere.