Given its notable brevity and Ben's age-appropriate, oft-times snarky, attitude, this should be an easy sell for reluctant...

ROAD TRIP

In a first-time collaboration between father and son, the Paulsens supply alternating chapters of this attractively depicted road trip with a strongly upbeat yet never didactic message.

Fourteen-year-old Ben is, reluctantly, on a journey with his dad and border collie, Atticus, to rescue a border collie puppy. Ben is barely speaking to his dad as his father drops one bombshell after another on him: He’s quit his job and started flipping houses for a very uncertain living, and Ben probably won't be able to attend a promised summer hockey camp that he worked for all year. Along the way, they begin to collect lightly sketched but nonetheless vividly portrayed characters: Ben's friend Theo, who is facing some low-security jail time but is trying hard to get his life together; Gus, a pithy car mechanic who has a talent for judging people and engines correctly; and attractive Mia, a waitress and wannabe actress who has been fending for herself but barely getting by. To amp up the action, Theo is being pursued by a career criminal with evil intentions. Chapters are told in the believable, alternating first-person voices of Ben and Atticus. Dog lovers will especially enjoy the amusing glimpses into the wise dog's mind.

Given its notable brevity and Ben's age-appropriate, oft-times snarky, attitude, this should be an easy sell for reluctant readers . (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-74191-0

Page Count: 1287

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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An impressive sequel.

PAX, JOURNEY HOME

Boy and fox follow separate paths in postwar rebuilding.

A year after Peter finds refuge with former soldier Vola, he prepares to leave to return to his childhood home. He plans to join the Junior Water Warriors, young people repurposing the machines and structures of war to reclaim reservoirs and rivers poisoned in the conflict, and then to set out on his own to live apart from others. At 13, Peter is competent and self-contained. Vola marvels at the construction of the floor of the cabin he’s built on her land, but the losses he’s sustained have left a mark. He imposes a penance on himself, reimagining the story of rescuing the orphaned kit Pax as one in which he follows his father’s counsel to kill the animal before he could form a connection. He thinks of his heart as having a stone inside it. Pax, meanwhile, has fathered three kits who claim his attention and devotion. Alternating chapters from the fox’s point of view demonstrate Pax’s care for his family—his mate, Bristle; her brother; and the three kits. Pax becomes especially attached to his daughter, who accompanies him on a journey that intersects with Peter’s and allows Peter to not only redeem his past, but imagine a future. This is a deftly nuanced look at the fragility and strength of the human heart. All the human characters read as White. Illustrations not seen.

An impressive sequel. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-293034-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when...

ASHES TO ASHEVILLE

Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.

Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light.

Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way . (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16504-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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