Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Other Way Around by Sashi Kaufman

The Other Way Around

Who'd a thunk it - a coming-of-age-finding-yourself-learning-to-appreciate-what-you-have story that didn't make me want to vomit.
"Andrew has seen a flash of his future. (Dad: unfinished PhD. Mom: unfulfilling career. Their marriage: unsuccessful.) Based on what he's seen, he's uninspired to put a foot on the well-worn path to the adulthood everyone expects of him. There must be another way around.

After a particularly disastrous Thanksgiving (his cousin wets Andrew's bed; his parents were too chicken to tell him his grandmother died), Andrew accidentally (on purpose) runs away and joins the circus. Kind of.

A guy can meet the most interesting people at the Greyhound station at dinnertime on Thanksgiving day. The Freegans are exactly the kinds of friends (living out of an ancient VW camper van, dumpster diving, dressing like clowns and busking for change) who would have Andrew's mom reaching for a third glass of Chardonnay. To Andrew, five teenagers who seem like they've found another way to grow up are a dream come true. But as the VW winds its way across the USA, the future is anything but certain."
Character development is obviously the core of this novel, and Kaufman does it well. Andrew doesn't automatically embrace the lifestyle and attitudes of his new travelling companions, which would have come across as either contrived or irritating. The reader gets a clear view of his thought process and feelings as he reassesses ideas old and new. Secondary characters are allowed to be complex, although only Emily seemed more than two-dimensional to me, and her only just barely. (Fwiw, I didn't LIKE Emily, but she seemed more real than G. I had trouble even keeping some of the male characters straight.)
Many teens will be attracted to the thought of running off for a while, with the safety net of a home to go back to, and intrigued by some of the concepts such as Freeganism, straight edge, and squat houses. Be prepared to objections from parents who think kids are going to act out everything they read about (which is why we have so many vampires these days - oh, wait...)
Just off-beat enough to stand out in any YA collection. Thank-you to Carorhoda Lab for the review copy!

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