In an attempt to read all the books from the National Book Award long list, I have just finished 100 Sideways Miles. From the flap copy I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it. A teen thinks he just might be caught in his father’s science fiction novel? Generally not my taste. But that goes to show how sticking to the safe books can mean missing out on a lot of those quirky, risky (and wonderful) novels.
And this one is very quirky and also hilariously funny. Finn, our protagonist and also the protagonist in his father’s book, is 16 going on 17 who has a best friend named Cade. Cade is legendary for things, well, best not said. :-) He’s a star athlete and says exactly what is on his mind whenever it comes into his mind. No filter there! Finn is kind of a loner and that’s likely down to his epilepsy. Ever since the accident that killed his mom and injured him (did I mention a dead horse fell on them? I told you it was quirky!), he has suffered with seizures. Smith writes them so that we can see, feel, and almost touch them. They’re that wild. But Julia, the new girl in school, sees beyond that and despite the damage they both bring to their relationship, they begin seeing each other all the time.
Cade and Finn set off on a road trip to visit a college in Oklahoma and it is on that trip that Finn begins to see that he is not predestined by his father’s book; he is Finn the friend, boyfriend, son, protagonist of his own story. Despite all the wild and crazy trappings, this is a coming of age book. It’s deeply satisfying to see Finn come out of the whole experience all in one piece.