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Are we there yet?
Griffin Smith is making his first interstate road trip, an adventurous rite of passage that will take him from his Midwestern home to his freshman year at college in Southern California. Yet this is no ordinary A to B trip, because Griffin will find his attitudes and ideas challenged by some surprising events and an unlikely band of travel companions: his best bud, who will test the limits of their friendship; his father, who will challenge his concept of ...
Are we there yet?
Griffin Smith is making his first interstate road trip, an adventurous rite of passage that will take him from his Midwestern home to his freshman year at college in Southern California. Yet this is no ordinary A to B trip, because Griffin will find his attitudes and ideas challenged by some surprising events and an unlikely band of travel companions: his best bud, who will test the limits of their friendship; his father, who will challenge his concept of manhood; his younger brother; and his father’s trophy girlfriend, who may just be too young in general. Soon this journey begins to take random detours, as Griffin experiences a bittersweet reunion with his biological mother, confronts a terrible betrayal, and encounters one angry coyote. As the states blur by, Griffin encounters life lessons that will show him the healing found in forgiveness—and an unexpected model of integrity and character. Tyndale House Publishers
I clenched my teeth. I hate it when adults try to talk like teenagers. Rhonda does it all the time. Her efforts are particularly grating to me because she does, in fact, employ the teen vernacular, but always, always at least one season too late.
Thus, my father's twenty-eight-year-old fiancée didn't say "Congrat-ulations!" when I was inducted into Quill & Scroll (the National Honor Society for high school journalists) early in my senior year. She said, "Big ups to you, G!" And when I was named Honorable Mention All-Area in track and field (small-school division), she didn't say "Way to go!" She said, "Big respect, G-Man! you got the mad wheels, homey!"
If she says, "I'm feelin' you, dawg," during one more of our dad-initiated dinnertime theological discussions, I'm going to puke on her shoes.
Fortunately for Rhonda, and all of the people at the Big Bear diner on the night the road trip was conceived, I didn't barf when she said, "We should totally drive!" I raised my eyes to the ceiling and said, "I don't think we should totally drive. I don't even think we should partially drive."
I looked across the booth to my dad to accept the disapproving glare I knew he would be offering. I smiled at him. It was my infuriating, smug smile. Ipractice it in the bathroom mirror. It's so irritating that when I see my reflection doing it, I want to punch myself in the face.
My dad didn't hit me. That wasn't his style. He just nibbled his bottom lip for a while before saying calmly, "I think we should give the idea due consideration rather than reject it out of hand."
"Okay," I said, sipping my bitter iced tea, "let's hear why we should cram ourselves into a car and drive for, what, three or four days to Southern California, stomping on each other's raw nerves all along the way and probably breaking down somewhere near the Kansas-Colorado border. Or maybe getting in a wreck."
Rhonda looked at my dad, giving him her Wounded Face, all droopy eyes and puckered chin and poofed-out lower lip. You know the look.
He looked at her, then at me. "Griffin, please ..."
"Okay, okay, okay-you're right, you guys. Yeah, you know, now that I consider The Rhonda eccles-Someday-To-Be-Smith Plan carefully, it's sounding better. I mean, why would I want to enjoy a quick, economical, and stress-free flight when we could all cram into a tired old vehicle and drive? let's go with the option that means more time, more money, more risks, more headaches."
Rhonda tried to smile, but she couldn't get the corners of her tiny heart-shaped mouth to curl upward. "Well," she said quietly, "I just thought it would be bomb to make a road trip of it. See the country. Stop at mom-and-pop diners like the Big Bear here. Maybe spend a day in denver-hit an amusement park or catch a Rockies game. Griff, please be more open-minded. Think of the time it would give us to kick it."
"We talk now," I observed.
"Yessss," she said, drawing the word out as though it had sprung a slow leak. She wrapped her long, slender fingers around her coffee mug and took a sip. "But in the car, you wouldn't be able to run away from the convo whenever it got too intense for you."
I pushed my chair back from the table and popped up like a piece of toast. I was ready to wad my napkin and spike it like a football on the table before marching out of the Big Bear. Then, only a half second before the Great Napkin Spike, I realized that would be proving her point.
Rhonda was studying me. I scrolled my mind for options on saving face, because since she had unofficially joined our family, I had lost more face than Michael Jackson. But I scrolled in vain. My brain was nothing but blank screen.
Now other patrons were watching me too. I could feel their stares. An idea began to emerge. It wasn't a good idea, but it was all I had, so I went with it. I said, with an air of dignified indignation, "Well, I'm going back to the buffet for another muffin. Would anybody else care for one?"
This is why I'll never be a politician, a courtroom litigator, a public speaker-or a success in anything that requires more than a modicum of human interaction. I have my moments, but rarely can I think on my feet when I'm around people. Half the time, I can't think off of 'em either. Maybe this is why track is the only sport I'm good at. All you must do is keep alternating left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, and turn left every once in a while. I found football and basketball too taxing mentally. They say Larry Bird was a hoops legend because he could foresee plays unfolding before they actually happened. So he always executed the perfect pass, put himself in position for nearly every rebound, stole inbounds passes at will. The game didn't take him by surprise. Not the case with me. I played organized basketball in junior high and the first two years of high school. And every time I got a jump shot swatted back in my face or ran into a hard pick, it was like a new, albeit unpleasant, experience. So I became a track man. I run the 1600 and 3200 meters-that's the mile and two-mile for those of you still holding strong in the anti-metric resistance.
I should note that I'm also adequate in cross-country. I often panic before races, though, because many of the courses are complicated. Even after reading the maps posted near the starting line, I don't understand where I'll be going. And you know those diagrams at big malls, the ones that assure that YOU ARE HERE? I study them, stare at them. Then I look around the actual mall and become convinced that the diagram has no concept of where I am. The diagram is mighty presumptuous, if not outright cruel and dishonest. How can it purport to know where I am? Half the time, I don't know that myself.
Luckily, at a mall I can always find some low-rise-jeans-wearing Mall Girls to lead me to the Food Court, and in cross-country I can follow the other runners. If I'd ever lead a race, I'd be in trouble, but this was never a problem in four years of high school, so there's no chance it will be a problem in college. Assuming I can even make the team. Sure, I did receive one of Lewis College's supposedly prestigious Scholar/Athlete scholarships, but I suspect it was part of some Be Kind to Kansas White Boys quota system. I'm not convinced I won't fold like a beach chair during my first college race-or first final exam.
Anyway, I give Rhonda credit (or in Rhonda-speak, "mad props") for not snort-laughing at my pathetic muffin excuse. She said she could "totally go for another blueberry" and smiled at me as I left the table.
When I returned, she waited as I carefully peeled the pale yellow corrugated paper away from my muffin, then hers, being careful not to break off the stumps. I hate when that happens. destroys the integrity of the muffin.
"Before you dis the driving idea," Rhonda said after buttering her muffin, "there's something you should know."
I looked at her and arched my eyebrows.
"I talked to Cole yesterday. He's totally down with the plan. We can drop him off at Boulder on the way to So-Cal. Think of the time you guys will have together. You'll really be able to kick it, ya know."
I nodded toward my little brother. "What about Colby?"
"Yeah," he said, wiping chocolate milk from his upper lip with his shirtsleeve. "What about me?"
"You'll stay at Aunt Nicole's crib in Topeka, my little dude," Rhonda said cheerfully.
Colby crinkled his nose. "Crib? I'm not a stinkin' baby! I'm five. I won't sleep in a crib!"
"Her house," I clarified for Colby. "'Crib' is what they call houses back in da 'hood where Rhonda is from. Rural Wisconsin."
"Oh," Colby said.
I looked to dad for a scowl again, but he was busy patting Rhonda's hand and whispering reassurance to her.
"I'm just kidding, Rhonda," I said without looking at her. "don't get all sentimental. Hey, it was a good idea to call Cole. And if he's 'down widdit,' so am I."
Rhonda's eyes were moist, but now they were shining-hopeful moist, not somber moist. "So it's a road trip then?" she said.
I sighed. It sounded like one of my dad's sighs. Too long and too loud. Heaven help me. "Sure," I said, "why not."
I was quiet on the drive home. All I could think of was how I was going to talk Cole out of the trip. First, of course, I'd need to find something to calm myself down so I wouldn't go Rant City on him. He tends to shut down when I do that. I hoped I hadn't exhausted my supply of vodka, that I still had a bottle or two tucked away in my sock drawer. Otherwise I'd have to resort to NyQuil and Peppermint Artificial Flavoring again. And let me tell you, that's a rough way to get yourself mellow. (of course, it does provide the side benefits of the clearest nasal passages and freshest breath in town.)
* * *
"What kind of Midwest mojo did Rhonda use on you?" I asked Cole as soon as I heard his flat "Hullo?" on the other end of the phone line. "A road trip with my dad and his cliché? I mean, this is a joke, right?"
I watched the seconds morph by on my LCD watch. After eighteen of them passed, Cole said, "you need to relax, dude. The trip will be cool. It's more time together before we have to go our separate ways. And it's a real road trip-not just some one-day, there-and-back thing. We've always talked about doing something like this, remember? To be honest, I thought you'd be all over this thing."
"But this isn't a normal thing, Sharp. This isn't going to St. Louis to see the Cardinals at Busch, before they tore it down, with a bunch of guys from school. There is a bona fide adult in the equation-one-point-five if you count Rhonda. So it's no longer a road trip; it's a chaperoned ordeal. You understand that there will be no hard music on the CD player? No Hatebreed. No Gwar. Dad listens to only classical and old-school rock. And Rhonda likes those guys who are like twenty years old but sing like sixty-year-old opera stars. That crap freaks me out, man. And there will be no mooning busloads of girls' volleyball teams along the way."
"It's not volleyball season yet," Cole said. This was no attempt at a snappy retort on his part. The way he said it, he was just pointing out a fact, such as, "Augusta is the capital of Maine."
I sensed I was losing the argument. "You won't be able belch in the car, or swear. My dad 'abhors profanity.' you know that." I wondered if I sounded as shrill and desperate as I felt.
"His ride, his rules. Besides, you like old-school rock, and it's kinda starting to grow on me."
"Okay, but consider this: Before we go, my dad will make us circle up and hold hands while he blesses the stupid SUV before the trip. And since we'll probably have to rent one of those small trailers to haul all our stuff, he'll probably get on a roll and bless that, too: 'Father God, please bless this little U-Haul and all of its contents.' Those words probably have never been uttered in the history of the English language. And he'll make a plea for 'traveling mercies.' Traveling mercies! That sounds like the name of a really bad folk-rock group. Are you understanding how all of this is going to go down?"
"Praying for our trip-I'm cool with that."
"Did you hear me say we'll have to hold hands?"
"Dude, I would hold hands with Rhonda any day. She's a fly honey."
"What about me? Or my dad?"
"The team held hands in football huddles all the time. It's only a problem if you're insecure in your masculinity."
I did my involuntary dad-sigh again. "Okay, man. I guess it's on, then."
It's on, then? I wagged my head in disbelief. That was something Rhonda would say. I don't talk like that.
Excerpted from BAD IDEA by TODD Hafer JEDD Hafer Copyright © 2006 by Todd and Jedd Hafer. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted July 11, 2008
In Kansas, eighteen years old Griffin Smith has just graduated from high school. He looks forward to going away from home where his parents divorced and new relationships in two states have left him confused. His mom married Max the ¿Mediocre¿ author while his father is engaged to Rhonda the Cliché a woman closer in age to Griffin than his dad. Griffin plans to fly to Lewis College in Southern California to meet his pen pal Carrot (who he prays is the female of his dreams) and his running teammates.---------------- Dad has other ideas. He decides father and son need to re-bond like they did before the extended family soap opera so he insists on a road trip. However, before Griffin can object, his father includes Rhonda so she too can bond with his son. Also on the drive are Griffin¿s five years old brother Colby (a partial bond project for dad and fiancée as he is to be dumped in Topeka at his aunt¿s house) and Griffin¿s best friend Cole one stop is to see mom for more bonding.------------------ Griffin knew as soon as the Cliché suggested the road trop that it was a BAD IDEA. However, he soon learns five key life lessons that will stay with him forever so he reassesses the road trip as still being a bad idea worth doing (except for the dead coyote biting him). Readers will enjoy his teen lit commentaries on extended families divided all over the country, going to college, and prayer as he learns through some hallowing experiences what grace under fire truly means. This is a well written at time amusing yet always serious young adult inspirational tale, starring a sensitive high school grad trying to experience the world.------------- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 29, 2009
I'll admit I feel a bit conflicted about this book. I've worked with troubled kids for over twenty years so I know where the authors are coming from. The book was compulsively readable. The wit, sarcasm, and analogies were the most original and creative I've ever read. The authors clearly had insight into a troubled kid's head as well. I'm not sure I agree that the content is for kids as young as twelve, though, despite what the recommended age level is. For one thing, Griffin does a lot of dangerous stuff in this book including self-mutilation and drinking secretively through the majority of the book. My concern would be that a troubled kid would read about something they'd never done before (like burn themselves) and try it because they read about it as a way of coping for Griffin and if they thinks he's cool... I dunno. I remember being 12 and 13 and reading a book about girls who were anorexic and trying to imitate their behavior when I was upset because I thought they were cool. That's what I'm getting at here. I liked how the authors gave incredible insight via the first person point of view into Griffin's inner heart attitude and his extreme pain over his mother's abandonment and how that played out in his life. I also liked how the showed the lessons Griffin learned over time, though they were slow at coming out and then the book was over. I'm also a bit conflicted on the spiritual element because from reading this book you sort of get the impression that Griffin sees himself as a Christian, yet his thoughts don't seem to match up with how a truly spiritually regenerated person would view things. He seemed to have no hope at all so that didn't sit right with me. However, he did seem to understand grace more in the end, so something obviously happened to his heart to change his impression of a relationship with Christ. Some of the stuff in Bad Idea is truly LOL funny, but even when reading snippets to my two teenage sons, I could not get them interested in reading this book and they are the target audience! Some of the stuff seemed two thirty-something sounding in Griffin's thoughts, too. What 18 year-old knows what Billy Idol's fish hook snarl looks like? Or am I just out of touch with the pop culture of today? At any rate, I still recommend this book for a snappy read to someone who loves angst and works with troubled youth. I'm just not so sure I'd recommend it to troubled teens as a resource. Sure, they might also self-mutilate and can identify with Griffin's thought process, however, if they don't already self-mutilate I'd hate to think they had now just discovered a whole new way to hurt themselves via a Christian book. Make sense? I love edgy stuff, so I had to really sleep on this one before I put my thoughts down to be fair to the authors. I still want to read the sequel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2006
'Bad Idea' is a great idea! I loved the book. I started the book laughing out loud, I cried, I was challenged, I was entertained. The book was fun. 'Bad Idea' caused me to look within, to write my children, and to pray. I would recommend it for anyone 12yrs old and older. The Hafer brothers are talented writers they make being challenged fun and practical.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
The parents of eighteen years old Griffin Smith are divorced. His mom remarried Maxwell the ¿Mediocre¿ novelist they live on a nonworking farm in Wyoming. His father is engaged to Rhonda the younger woman cliché right out of a novel. The other member of Griffin¿s extended family is his younger five year old brother. Everyone assumes Griffin has adjusted to separated parents living in two states, but he has not as they are too busy with their own troubles and rationalizations to truly care about him or realize he lives a ¿secret life¿. Thus he disciplines himself quite harshly when he believes he has done something wrong like getting drunk.------------------ Now Griffin is heading to California to attend college. Dad insists on a road show consisting of Griffin, dad, the cliché, the younger brother Cole, and the best friend Colby. All Griffin wants is to fly to Lewis College to meet his cross country teammates and his pen pal the Carrot, but instead will receive five life lessons while on this bad idea road show from his traveling companions who one turns out to be a Judah, his estranged mom, and most of all the angry coyote he ran over. -------------------- BAD IDEA is a terrific coming of age tale starring an interesting teen who has big issues but neither of his parents seem aware that he has any problems. Griffin tells the tale of his escapades as he heads west and gains five lessons he will use as solace for the rest of his life starting with the coyote. Readers will empathize with him as he struggles with life and learns from his adventures. The story line is well written, often amusing, but always gripping, as Todd & Jedd Hafer provide deep messages inside a poignant tale of a troubled offspring of divorcees.----------------- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.