All teens are not wallowing in angst. I know at least one who is not. OK, so he’s a main character in a novel, but that’s not the point. He’s a teen boy who gets caught up in mishap after mishap while tripping over his own feet. The reader pulls for him because the reader could be that boy. He’s my nomination for Everyboy.
AS EASY AS FALLING OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH by Lynne Rae Perkins, Greenwillow Books, 2010
Who among us had not tried to find the best place for cell phone reception when traveling in the boonies? Ry is 15 and on a train headed to a new summer camp when he discovers by reading mail he saved to read on the train that the camp closed before it opened.
Ry is a responsible kid. He knows he should get in touch with his parents who just left to sail on the Caribbean, or his grandfather who has come to stay with their dogs in the home they just moved into. The train pulls into a small station surrounded by nothing. No town. No houses. Just vast space. Ry is under the impression that he has plenty of time to climb a distant hill where he can get a cell signal. His impression is wrong. The train pulls out without him–but his belongings for the summer are still on board. Thus is the adventure launched.
One thing leads to another, not only for Ry, but for the grown-ups in his life, too. They are off on parallel adventures, even the dogs. Add the characters Ry meets along the way: Del (who must fix everything), Yulia whom Del loves but can’t apologize to for some long ago spat, Carl, an old codger who rescues Ry and Del from the side of the road in a car which, it turns out, isn’t his. And more.
The author’s name may be familiar. Her novel, Criss Cross, won the Newbery. It was full of interesting characters, too, but I didn’t warm up to them they way I do to Ry and his friends.
Author Perkins is also an artist. She illustrates the dogs' adventures in black and white cartoon style art. Threaded throughout the people stories, they are lively and timely.
I won't try to categorize this as young adult or middle grade. Rollicking along like the wheels of the train Ry missed to begin his comic laden travels, the writing is unburdened with language or themes that might offend. Yes,lessons are learned, but they are there for the readers to discover on their own.
Long before the satisfying ending, I was rooting for absolutely everybody and that includes the dogs. This unfolds like a movie. I hope it will become one. It’s definitely one the whole family will enjoy.
Whether teen and tween readers are boys or girls, they'll be wondering, right along with me, what accidents will befall Ry when he gets his driver's license and begins his junior year in high school. Will there be another book?