Fastback Beach

Fastback Beach

4.0 2
by Shirlee Smith Matheson

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Miles Derkach is in trouble. Along with two friends, he stole a car and went joyriding. When the dust clears, he is all alone and his friends have left, leaving him to take the blame—and the punishment—while maintaining his silence. Placed on probation and sentenced to community service, Miles begins working for a man who after suffering a stroke and not


Miles Derkach is in trouble. Along with two friends, he stole a car and went joyriding. When the dust clears, he is all alone and his friends have left, leaving him to take the blame—and the punishment—while maintaining his silence. Placed on probation and sentenced to community service, Miles begins working for a man who after suffering a stroke and not being able to drive, has kept his beloved hot rod under wraps in the garage. Seeing a chance to learn more about cars and pursue his dream of becoming a mechanic, Miles helps to restore the car. When the hot rod is stolen and Miles is the prime suspect, he realizes that he must confront his friends and stand up for himself.

Editorial Reviews

Canadian Book Review Annual
"Knowledgeable car buffs will enjoy Matheson's auto-laced language...Recommended."
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"This is a good pick for boys who are reluctant readers. From the starting lap through to the finish line, it will rev up their enthusiasm."
CM Magazine
Fastback Beach does a superb job of illustrating the struggles teenagers go through when there is a conflict between what they believe is right and what their friends are doing. This is the story of an adolescent becoming an adult, making decisions, and dealing with the consequences of his actions. Highly Recommended.”
Cliched but likable story of a troubled teen saved by the affection of an elderly friend and the love of a good girl. Miles' delinquent friends Larry and Spider take him joyriding in a stolen Mustang. When the car crashes, Miles' so-called friends abandon him, unconscious, to the dubious mercies of the police. Miles' probation includes community service, and he is sent to help old Mr. and Mrs. Barnier at the senior citizens' organization. And what luck-Mr. Barnier sets car-crazy Miles to organizing boxes of 50-year-old hot rod magazines. Miles and Mr. Barnier spend happy hours discussing stockcar racing. But when Miles lets slip to Larry that Mr. Barnier has a gorgeous home-built hot rod in his garage, Miles sees trouble coming. Miles and his mechanic girlfriend Kenny have a great time helping fix Mr. Barnier's car, until Larry and Spider steal it for joyriding. Not much tension here-it's clear that Miles will choose his new, decent friends over loyalty to childhood friends gone bad-but a likable hero, appealing to more than just the mechanically inclined who will be steered toward this book. KLIATT Codes: JS-Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Orca, 97p., Ages 12 to 18.
— Deborah Kaplan
When Miles takes the heat after his friends crash a stolen Mustang and run away, he gets sentenced to ninety days of probation. Part of his sentence requires him to perform an act of community service, working with an elderly car buff who is restoring a 1937 Ford Coupe. Just as Miles begins to appreciate the hard work it takes, he makes the mistake of bragging about the 270-horsepower classic to his delinquent friends. Adrenaline-pumping race scenes frame the story of a boy trying to get back on track. Supporting characters are not complex, but ninety-six pages do not leave a great deal of space for character development. The book is part of the new Orca Soundings series for teen reluctant readers, a series for which librarians, teens, and teachers have been waiting. High interest, low reading level, and well written, some by award-winning young adult authors, these books combine simple but descriptive language with issues that can be used in classroom discussion. An appealing photograph draws the eyes, while bigger fonts and ample white space ease reading. The one flaw is also the book's greatest asset: the length. Students will love it, but teachers with page requirements will think that the series is not age appropriate. The high-quality content is clearly geared to ages twelve and up, but if the publisher could find a way to stretch the stories a few pages, everyone would be happy with these highly recommended books for school and library collections. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Orca,96p., pb. Ages 11 to 18.
—Beth Gallaway
Children's Literature
A teenage boy, Miles, has two friends who steal cars to acquire parts. When Miles gets injured during a joy ride in a stolen car, his friends flee, leaving him to be arrested. The court sentences him to probation and community service, which he spends with an older couple who are car enthusiasts. Miles' friends steal both his probation officer's car and the old couple's hot rod. Eventually, Miles turns his friends in to the police and regains his respect. The novel has flat, uninteresting, characters that remain static, and a befuddling plot timeline and setting. The characters and the cars seem to be from the 1970's, but the setting is far from clear. The only remotely intriguing themes involve Miles' parents' divorce and his relationship with his friends, but Matheson only touches on these ideas, reducing the novel to automotive jargon such as "roller cam," "channeled body," "push-rods," and "rockers," which makes it virtually impossible for readers who are not car enthusiasts to feel a connection with anything in the novel. 2003, Orca Book Publishers, Ages 12 up.
—Mary Jessica George

Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Orca Soundings Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.30(d)
HL620L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

At the turnoff to Fastback Beach, Spider stomps the brakes and the car fishtails. He straightens it but we've passed the turnoff, so he cuts a U-turn in the middle of the highway, laying rubber that smokes around us. Then we're on the gravel trail leading down to the beach.

Below us, white in the moonlight, stretch miles of sand. This is a perfect place for drag racing. Spider steps on it and the car jumps ahead. I put my hand down for balance and brace as we hit a dune and become airborne.

Meet the Author

Shirlee Smith Matheson is the author of several critically acclaimed books for young adults. Her stories are inspired by the universal struggle to fit in as an adolescent, especially those who have been uprooted from their homes and familiar surroundings. For more information, visit

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Fastback Beach 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an okay book for me. This book is about Miles and his crew are steeling cars around an area. Then Miles gets caught and has to do 100 hours of community work. It took him a long time to complet that many hours. After he finished his hours his mom desided to get him Corvette and so now he dont have to steel any one elses car.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great little book for teen boys who want an engaging story, but who may struggle with reading.