Summer adventure is As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins; published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2010; 352 pages.

Listen to Lynne Rae Perkins read an excerpt! http://www.teachingbooks.net/book_reading.cgi?id=4485&a=1

Download the Reading Guide from HarperCollins: http://files.harpercollins.com/PDF/ReadingGuides/0061870900.pdf

Fifteen year old Ry is anxious to get to the Summer ArchaeoTrails Program, but he’s also anxious to stay wired.  So after he disembarks from the train to find a cell phone signal, he is, well, alarmed to see the train move away, well before the estimated 40 minute break was over.  Now what?  Stranded in a desert in Montana, he starts to hike.  His feet take him to a small town where he finds Del.  Del is anxious for an adventure too.  So together they hit the road, in Del’s modified Willys, to get Ry home to Wisconsin.  When Ry’s grandfather fails to answer his phone, and Del and Ry find a mystery at home, the duo head for the Caribbean to try to locate Ry’s parents, who are on a “rekindle the marriage” cruise on a sailboat, island hopping.  The adventures of Del and Ry, perhaps a modern-day Don Quixote and Pancho (or Homer’s Odysseus?), are an extreme coming of age story with many comical twists.  As the book jacket teases: “Train. Car.  Plane.  Boat.  Feet.  He’ll get there.  Won’t he?”

This book is a must-read.  Perkins’ sense of humor takes the edge off dangerous situations this teen finds himself trying to survive.  I kept trying to categorize it; is it like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road?  Or maybe a more down-to-earth Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?  In the end, I felt it was a genre unto itself, but with a teen twist on Homer’s Illiad or Odyssey; or even an American traveling a Quixotic  path.  At its core, this is an epic coming of age story.

I kept thinking that I’d recommend this as a read-alike for Shift (Jennifer Bradbury) and Peak (Roland Smith).  Perkins has won the Newbery Medal (for Criss Cross) and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s up for the Michael Printz Award for this one.

4P     5Q     Grade Level: 7-11

Cover art: Train tracks, Caribbean blue water, a line art plane and a teen boy caught mid-air in his jump; might not mean much until you close the cover, but it should be just interesting enough to lure readers who haven’t heard of this book.

From Reading List: Best Books for Young Adults (YALSA) nominee 2011

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