Escape Velocity

Escape Velocity

4.0 2
by Robin Stevenson

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Lou's dad has been addicted to painkillers since an accident left him unable to work. He's a good, loving dad, but kind of useless. Lou's mother, Zoe, a successful novelist, abandoned Lou at birth and showed no interest in her until three years ago, when Lou was twelve. Their relationship since then has been strained, but when Lou's dad has a stroke, there is


Lou's dad has been addicted to painkillers since an accident left him unable to work. He's a good, loving dad, but kind of useless. Lou's mother, Zoe, a successful novelist, abandoned Lou at birth and showed no interest in her until three years ago, when Lou was twelve. Their relationship since then has been strained, but when Lou's dad has a stroke, there is nowhere else for her to go while he recovers. Lou struggles to find her bearings and figure out why her mom left her all those years ago. She is convinced the answers are in Zoe's fiction, but when Lou's grandmother, Heather, appears at a reading, Lou realizes she may have misjudged her mother.

Editorial Reviews

Library Media Connection
"This novel exquisitely captures the angst adolescents experience when dealing with parental and peer conflicts...The plot twists and turns, and readers can empathize with Lou's predicament. Stevenson creates an engaging story which will appeal to female adolescents addressing identity issues and family turmoil."
"Lou's pain and alienation is palpable, and her desire to both protect and escape her father is understandable. This is a multilayered, emotionally draining—yet hopeful—novel that will allow many teens to recognize their own ambivalence towards their parents, as well as the need to escape velocity—the speed an object requires to break free from a gravitational pull—in their lives."
CM Magazine
"[An] enjoyable read. Stevenson skillfully and gingerly balances difficult concepts, such as abandonment, drug abuse and loss, through her use and development of dynamic and honest characters, thereby allowing readers to mull over the intricacies of their own personal relationships."
Quill & Quire
[Starred Review] "A nuanced story that is both familiar and inspiring...Escape Velocity is a subtle meditation on both the ties that bind and the difficulties that divide."
Fabbity Fab Book Reviews blog
"Beautifully written, easy to get into (and over too quickly, I thought!). While the book has its moments of genuine sadness and unwelcome surprise, it is also inspiring (without ever being melodramatic or sappy)...I would recommend this title for those who enjoy contemporary and/or slightly more sophisticated YA [novels]."
Resource Links
"Stevenson excels at writing stories about complex family relationships and Escape Velocity is no exception."
Tri State YA Book Review Committee
"A good choice for middle and high school girls who are looking for truth in relationships."
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—While her dad recovers from a heart attack and bypass surgery, 15-year-old Lou Summers heads to British Columbia to stay with her famous author mother, Zoe Summers, who abandoned her daughter for the first 12 years of her life. While neither one of them is comfortable with being thrown together, Lou hopes that maybe this time around things will be different. She has questions for her mother, questions about Zoe's past and Lou's life. Lou's first night in Victoria happens to be at a book reading for her mother's latest novel, and a homeless woman in the audience makes Zoe nervous, a fact that piques Lou's curiosity. Who is she? Lou believes the answer will unlock clues to her mother's past and her attitude toward her daughter. Their dynamic is the focus of this story; the two are always at odds but also have more in common than they realize. Lou is a reliable narrator and a likable character. The secondary characters are developed but remain firmly in the background. The story ends on a hopeful note. Enjoyable for fans of realistic fiction focused on family dynamics and relationships.—Natalie Struecker, Rock Island Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews

Forced to move in with her mother, a sophisticated, successful author who abandoned her at birth, 15-year-old Lou is determined to figure out what led this near stranger to reject her so completely.

After her mother, Zoe, left her behind, Lou was raised by her father, a lackadaisical pain-medication addict who nonetheless loves her. Then he suffers a heart attack and stroke, and Lou is sent to join Zoe in Victoria, British Columbia. Zoe isn't warmly welcoming, frequently dismissing Lou's efforts to please her, pointedly stating, "I can't rearrange my whole life because you're here." Lou observes that her mother's new novel, Escape Velocity, focused on a mother-daughter relationship that's as dysfunctional as their own and seems to negatively portray her as "parasitic." This drives her to find out more about Zoe's mysterious past. She finally tracks down Heather, her grandmother, a street woman with secrets of her own but whose history offers insight into not only Zoe's background, but also her conflicted character. Lou is a fully rounded, attractive character. Zoe's emotional insensitivity toward her, while painful, becomes understandable as her believable back story emerges. Other characters are also nicely, authentically fleshed out, adding depth and a strong sense of reality.

A quiet, moving exploration of what it means to be a mother—or a daughter—even when the relationship is unconventional. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)
HL630L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

I open the top drawer, my heart pounding. A row of file folders, alternating blue and gray, all neatly labeled. Clippings, Documents, Letters...I stop, about to pull out the Letters file, but then I notice the next file: Lou. The skin on the back of my neck prickles, and I shiver. I raise my hand to life out the file and, just as my fingers touch it, I hear my mother's key in the lock.

Meet the Author

Robin Stevenson is the author of multiple books for children and teens. She spends most of her time writing, hanging out with her homeschooled son, and teaching creative writing to adults, teens and kids. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her family. For more information, visit Robin loves to hear from readers—and she always writes back.

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Escape Velocity 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
82. Escape Velocity by Robin Stevenson Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Pages: 240 Acquired: 10/18/11 Book of Your Shelf? No Why I read it: First Reads Series: No Lou is a teenager living in Alberta with her father, and she's miserable. She has no life, no friends, and her father's deteriorating health and prescription drug addictions are driving her mad. Her mother, a famous poet and author, left minutes after she was born. They reconnected when she was a older, but things have happened since that makes it difficult for them to speak to each other. When the unthinkable happens and Lou's dad ends up in the hospital after a stroke, she is shipped off to live with the mother she hardly knows. Lou decides to make the best of the situation and tries to figure out why her mother left. She is convinced the answer will be found somewhere in her mother's writing, but the conclusion Lou draws is not a happy one. Lou rubbed me the wrong way. The author seemed to be trying to make her optimistic and hopeful, but it just didn't seem to come across the pages right. She had few original ideas and it often seemed like she just didn't get it - any of it. The situation between her and her father seemed extremely unrealistic and I had a hard time relating to them. The strain between Lou and her mother really held the story together for me. With both of them trying to figure their lives and themselves out, they keep missing what really matters most in their relationship. I saw most of the final twist coming, but it was a bit more dramatic than I anticipated. The book ended nicely for me - it left things open to continue in the imagination, but closed enough to give me resolution. 3/5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has me wanting a sequel. It is such a great read with a giggle here and there. Definitely not a waste of time.