Cadillac Chronicles

Cadillac Chronicles

by Brett Hartman
     
 

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Sixteen year-old Alex Riley’s top priorities in life are to find his long-absent father and a girl with a decent set of breasts. But his mother has a knack for sabotaging his plans. To advance her political career, she takes in an elderly black man named Lester Bray. Lester arrives with a vintage Cadillac and an old man's personality. It takes only a week for

Overview

Sixteen year-old Alex Riley’s top priorities in life are to find his long-absent father and a girl with a decent set of breasts. But his mother has a knack for sabotaging his plans. To advance her political career, she takes in an elderly black man named Lester Bray. Lester arrives with a vintage Cadillac and an old man's personality. It takes only a week for Alex's mother to ask Lester to leave. That makes Alex angry. On the morning of his eviction, Lester and Alex set out on a road trip, ostensibly to find the boy's father in Fort Lauderdale. But the two don't just head south. They also cross through un-navigated political, racial, and personal territory. A wild ride, Cadillac Chronicles explores what it means to—finally—find a real friend.

Brett Hartman lived an unremarkable life in Fort Lauderdale until May 18, 1983, when he was arrested for aggravated battery. While away at Auburn University, he suffered a psychotic breakdown and months of intensive treatment. Though he made a full recovery, the events of that period never left him. He continued his education at Indiana State, where he received a doctorate in clinical psychology; he has worked as a psychologist ever since. His memoir Hammerhead 84 covers his journey through the mental health industry. Cadillac Chronicles is his debut novel. He lives in Albany, New York, with his wife and their two sons.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hartman, author of the memoir Hammerhead 84, makes his YA debut with a hard-hitting road trip novel that’s unafraid to show the ugly sides of American life. Sixteen-year-old Alex has nothing but contempt for his politically calculating (and two-dimensionally callous) mother, and when she reneges on an offer to house an elderly black man named Lester after just a few days, Alex and straight-shooting Lester skip town, driving from New York State to Florida to find the father Alex never knew. Hartman doesn’t tiptoe around either Alex’s virility (he notices every pair of breasts that passes before his eyes and loses his virginity in a graphic sex scene) or Lester’s infirmity (including the need for frequent pit stops, not always in time). He also doesn’t miss a chance to describe characters’ physicality in blunt, even cruel terms (Lester’s morbidly obese sister “could have strung together a couple of mop buckets for a bra”). A cynical outlook underlies Hartman’s story, though the self-knowledge and maturity Alex gains during his travels leave room for hope. Ages 13–up. Agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"[F]resh and gritty…The mix of humor, gravity, and angst will keep readers engaged, and this debut novel has enough of all three elements to appeal to reluctant and eager male readers alike." —School Library Journal, starred review

"Angry, just-turned-16-year-old Alex, a white boy, and equally angry but very old Lester, a black man, are unlikely road-trip buddies in this novel that transcends its conventions…Alex learns to drive, comes to understand a little of the hard truth of race in post–Civil Rights–era America and spectacularly loses his virginity in a scene that will surprise readers as much as Alex…If there's little doubt about the end of the trip, readers will be happy they've gone along for the ride." — Kirkus Reviews

"Lester and Alex from Cadillac Chronicles are going to live in my literary memory for a long, long time. I think they are two of most likable folks to come along in young adult books for awhile." — Connie Griffin, Bookworks Independent Bookstore

"This road-trip novel is full of humor and surprises that make it a delightful read for teenage boys and many girls as well." — Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Albany Times-Union

"Hartman…makes his YA debut with a hard-hitting road trip novel that’s unafraid to show the ugly sides of American life… the self-knowledge and maturity Alex gains during his travels leave room for hope." — Publishers Weekly

"Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman is, on the surface, a journey by car to the South. But it is much, much more. It is a story of growing up. It's about growing old. It's about family. It's about loyalty. And most of all, it's about friendship … What makes this book such an engrossing read is the relationship between the young, angry, insecure Alex and the old, sick, angry Lester. But be forewarned, the book is not for the squeamish. There is a lot of profanity. There is sex and there are many references to young men's ability to form instant erections. To most, these references will just serve to make the book more authentic." — Examiner.com

"Cadillac Chronicles is a fine addition to young adult fiction collections, a solid coming-of-age story, highly recommended." — Midwest Book Review

"What’s fresh is the scene where Alex confronts his psychiatrist; his critique is devastating, timely, and on point, and it will give readers something to cheer about." — Bulletin of the Center for the Children's Book

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Alex Riley's politically aspiring mom seems to care more about campaigning than about anything Alex has to say. Their relationship has become so antagonistic that they practically snarl at each other in passing. Alex's father apparently runs a successful restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale but has been missing from his life since he was a baby. He wants more than anything to travel from New York to see him, but his mother expressly forbids it. When his mother unilaterally decides to bring an aging black man into their home as part of a new program to keep single seniors out of nursing homes, Alex knows it is just another ploy to make herself look good to the public. Her move backfires when said senior, Lester Bray, turns out to be more outspoken about his views—which often differ from Mrs. Riley's—than is comfortable for her. When she tries to get rid of him, he and Alex hatch a plan to take off for Florida in Lester's old Cadillac deVille and the adventures begin. The deep South still has challenges to offer an aging black man traveling with a white teenager, and Alex has a lot to learn about being a real friend. When Alex finds out his dad is gay, he also has to come to terms with his own prejudices about homosexuality. Alex comes of age emotionally, sexually—there are explicit descriptions of sexual activity here—and intellectually in this satisfying road trip chronicle. The characters of Alex and Lester are well drawn and as their relationship grows, the reader will root for them to succeed in their individual quests. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Alex Riley is friendless and spends most of his time drawing, ogling girls' breasts, or imagining his absent father's reentrance or metaphysical guidance in his life. His mother's sole focus is climbing the political ladder in Albany, New York. Thus, she allows an elderly African American man, Lester Bray, to live in their home, but this inauthentic gesture of goodwill is short-lived. After Alex's 16th birthday and a few unsavory comments by Lester, she tells him that he must find another place to stay. Having enough of his mother's antics, Alex convinces him that they should skip town and drive to Fort Lauderdale in Lester's pristine Cadillac Deville so that Alex can see his father and then go on to Alabama, where Lester can visit his sister. During the trip Alex learns to drive, reconnects with his father, somewhat graphically loses his virginity, and pledges to become a stronger person. While the story of a teen meeting and learning from an elderly adult of a different ethnicity has been done before, Hartman's effort is fresh and gritty. There are some odd moments in the plot, such as Alex stumbling upon a homeless woman with a cell phone and calling his mother to ask if his father is gay, but overall it is well woven. The mix of humor, gravity, and angst will keep readers engaged, and this debut novel has enough of all three elements to appeal to reluctant and eager male readers alike.—Adrienne L. Strock, Maricopa County Library District, AZ
Kirkus Reviews
Angry, just-turned-16-year-old Alex, a white boy, and equally angry but very old Lester, a black man, are unlikely road-trip buddies in this novel that transcends its conventions. The cross-generational road trip is a familiar trope; so is the life-changing cross-racial relationship. Where this book that combines the two stands out is in its refusal to make Lester simply a tool for Alex's coming-of-age. While Lester initially seems to conform to many of the stereotypes, he is, as Alex learns, nevertheless entirely an individual, one who hates his age-inflicted vulnerability with bullheaded passion. They come together--unwillingly--when Alex's frankly odious, local-politician mother takes Lester in to make herself look good. In fairly short order, though, they find themselves on the run together in Lester's Cadillac, on their way to, first, Florida to find the father Alex has never known and then to Alabama, to visit the sister Lester hasn't seen in years. Lester counsels him: "[W]hen you commit to a course of action, don't hesitate. Don't limp-dick yourself into a hole." Accordingly, Alex learns to drive, comes to understand a little of the hard truth of race in post–civil rights–era America and spectacularly loses his virginity in a scene that will surprise readers as much as Alex. If there's little doubt about the end of the trip, readers will be happy they've gone along for the ride. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781935955412
Publisher:
Cinco Puntos Press
Publication date:
11/06/2012
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 3.50(d)
Lexile:
HL650L (what's this?)
Age Range:
16 Years

Related Subjects

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"[F]resh and gritty…The mix of humor, gravity, and angst will keep readers engaged, and this debut novel has enough of all three elements to appeal to reluctant and eager male readers alike." —School Library Journal, starred review

"Angry, just-turned-16-year-old Alex, a white boy, and equally angry but very old Lester, a black man, are unlikely road-trip buddies in this novel that transcends its conventions…Alex learns to drive, comes to understand a little of the hard truth of race in post–Civil Rights–era America and spectacularly loses his virginity in a scene that will surprise readers as much as Alex…If there's little doubt about the end of the trip, readers will be happy they've gone along for the ride." — Kirkus Reviews

"Lester and Alex from Cadillac Chronicles are going to live in my literary memory for a long, long time. I think they are two of most likable folks to come along in young adult books for awhile." — Connie Griffin, Bookworks Independent Bookstore

"This road-trip novel is full of humor and surprises that make it a delightful read for teenage boys and many girls as well." — Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Albany Times-Union

"Hartman…makes his YA debut with a hard-hitting road trip novel that’s unafraid to show the ugly sides of American life… the self-knowledge and maturity Alex gains during his travels leave room for hope." — Publishers Weekly

"Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman is, on the surface, a journey by car to the South. But it is much, much more. It is a story of growing up. It's about growing old. It's about family. It's about loyalty. And most of all, it's about friendship … What makes this book such an engrossing read is the relationship between the young, angry, insecure Alex and the old, sick, angry Lester. But be forewarned, the book is not for the squeamish. There is a lot of profanity. There is sex and there are many references to young men's ability to form instant erections. To most, these references will just serve to make the book more authentic." — Examiner.com

"Cadillac Chronicles is a fine addition to young adult fiction collections, a solid coming-of-age story, highly recommended." — Midwest Book Review

"What’s fresh is the scene where Alex confronts his psychiatrist; his critique is devastating, timely, and on point, and it will give readers something to cheer about." — Bulletin of the Center for the Children's Book

Meet the Author


Brett Hartman lived an unremarkable life in Fort Lauderdale until May 18th, 1983 when he was arrested for aggravated battery. While away at Auburn University, he suffered a psychotic breakdown and months of intensive treatment. Though he made a full recovery, the events of that period never left him. He continued his education at Indiana State, where he received a doctorate in clinical psychology; he has worked as a psychologist ever since. He discovered a passion for writing while working on his memoir, Hammerhead 84, which covers his journey through the mental health industry. Cadillac Chronicles is his debut novel. He lives in Albany, New York with his wife, Sarah, and their two sons, Benjamin and Nicholas.

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