The Boy Who Loved Too Much: A True Story of Pathological Friendliness

To Eli D'Angelo, everyone is a friend. With his exuberant and highly sociable personality, the teenager greets strangers with affectionate hugs and rapid-fire chatter. While these qualities may seem positive and endearing, Eli's trusting nature makes him particularly vulnerable for potential harm from others.

Eli is among an estimated 30,000 people in the United States who have Williams Syndrome, a genetic neurological condition characterized by developmental delays, cardiovascular issues, visual-spatial challenges and distinct, elfin-like facial features. People with Williams often have above average musical and language abilities with certain fixations. Eli, for example, is particularly obsessed with twirling objects and floor scrubbers.

For three years, journalist Jennifer Latson followed Eli and his mother, Gayle, to explore the impact of Williams on their family. The Boy Who Loved Too Much offers a scientific overview of the condition and an easy-to-understand explanation of the genetic and hormonal factors involved. It also draws the reader into Eli and Gayle's everyday interactions and gatherings with other families affected by Williams. Latson effectively parallels Eli's emotional growth with Gayle's as she shows how the diagnosis intensifies the typical push-pull parental desire of wanting to protect a child from the world while also encouraging self-sufficiency and learning to let go.

"He'd probably be happier if he stayed a child forever. Then again, she thought, wouldn't everyone? Adolescence might be the most challenging stage of life with Williams, but it's also a challenge for every human being. Growing up is never easy. The reward isn't necessarily happiness; it's independence. But what Gayle wanted for Eli--what parents everywhere want for their children--was both." --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at

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