4.0 2
by Mick Cochrane

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Sometimes Fitz would look at himself in the mirror, an expression of pathetic eagerness on his face. He was a dog in the pound, wanting to be adopted. He'd smile. What father wouldn't want this boy?

Fifteen-year-old Fitzgerald—Fitz, to his friends—has just learned that his father, whom he's never met, who supports him but is not a part of his


Sometimes Fitz would look at himself in the mirror, an expression of pathetic eagerness on his face. He was a dog in the pound, wanting to be adopted. He'd smile. What father wouldn't want this boy?

Fifteen-year-old Fitzgerald—Fitz, to his friends—has just learned that his father, whom he's never met, who supports him but is not a part of his life, is living nearby. Fitz begins to follow him, watch him, study him, and on an otherwise ordinary May morning, he executes a plan to force his father, at gunpoint, to be with him.

Over the course of one spring day, Fitz and his father become real to one another. Fitz learns about his father, why he's chosen to remain distant and what really happened between him and Fitz's mother. And his father learns what sort of boy his son has grown up to become.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A high school sophomore kidnaps his estranged father at gunpoint. Fitzgerald, or Fitz as he calls himself, has never met his biological father. His mother is maddeningly evasive on the subject, but Fitz learns that his father, a wealthy lawyer, lives nearby from the address on the monthly child support checks. He obtains a gun with unbelievable ease from a schoolyard drug dealer and hatches a plan to hold his dad hostage with the vague notion of getting "a lump sum of his father's time and attention. Back pay." Despite the sinister presence of the gun and his father's initial shock, the two are soon enjoying a pleasant day out together, which includes a trip to the zoo and lunch at a diner. But Fitz quickly realizes that it will take more than one afternoon to bond with this person who is essentially a stranger. "What you get at gunpoint, that's not love…you can take a guy's car, but you can't jack someone's heart." The distant, third-person, present-tense narration fails to convey the emotional urgency of the provocative premise, and the gun, which is hardly mentioned after its initial appearance and harmlessly discharged once near the end, feels like a titillating contrivance added on to spice up an otherwise unremarkable story of father/son conflict. Ends not with a bang, but a whimper. (Fiction. 12-15)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Fitzgerald, 15, doesn't know his father, but after finding out that he's moved back to St. Paul, decides upon a desperate plan to meet him. It starts by putting a gun in the man's face. What follows is a touching, if odd, story of a teen trying to understand the father he never knew. He learns what his dad does now, how his parents first met, and, most important, why he left him and his mother in the first place. This is a story that has been told many times in young adult books, but here it's done exceptionally well, and the motivation behind Fitz choosing a gun to get the fatherly attention he's never received yet desperately needs is understandable even if readers don't necessarily agree with it. Quiet scenes between Fitz and Curtis are written with an understated poignant emotionality that allows readers to understand Fitz. Things like feeding sea lions and later having lunch with his father are so strange to him, yet fill a void within him. Even his absentee father somehow becomes a likable character. This is a hard book to put down, and a great one to give to teens trying to make sense of divorce.—Ryan P. Donovan, New York Public Library

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.34(h) x 0.78(d)
750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


On a cool morning in late May, Fitz is standing in the alley behind his father's apartment in St. Paul. Truth be told, lurking is what he's doing. Trying to act as if he belongs here, as if maybe he's waiting for a ride. Keeping an eye on the door, checking the clock on his phone from time to time, doing his best not to look suspicious, doing his best not to look criminal.

This is one of the fancier neighborhoods in the city—"the Historic Summit Hill District." That's what real-estate agents call it. It's where F. Scott Fitzgerald, the famous writer his mother named him for, lived a hundred years ago. It's full of yuppies—Geoffries and Jennas, his friend Caleb calls them, Pasta-Hounds. It's less than five miles away from where Fitz lives with his mother on the city's west side, but it took him forty minutes to get here on the bus. He had to cross one of the longest rivers in the world—the Mississippi—and transfer downtown.

His father's building is red stone, the walls thick as a castle's. It reminds Fitz of Fort Snelling, the frontier fort overlooking the river he's visited on school field trips. It's got turrets and pillars and balconies. A sleeping porch in the back. It must have been built at the turn of the last century, a mansion for some railroad or grain baron. Now it's divided into separate units: his father's, he's learned, is on the second floor.

Fitz has been in the entry—studied the names on the mailboxes, checked out the catalogs and magazines in the bin—but never beyond the heavy security door. He's never been in his father's apartment. He imagines hardwood floors, a fireplace, some kind of gourmet kitchen, a wine rack, a killer home-theater system. His father likes nice things, Fitz knows that much about him. His father's car—a shiny silver sedan, leather interior, five-speed stick—is parked in its assigned spot, twenty feet away from where Fitz is standing.

There's no litter in the alley, no broken glass. It's newly paved. Here they probably don't even call it an alley. That would be too common. There's some upscale equivalent—"anterior access road," that's what they call it, Fitz thinks, something like that.

A black SUV passes slowly. There's a woman inside, nicely dressed, wearing sunglasses, fluffing her hair in the rearview mirror. Fitz smiles pleasantly at her, trying his best not to look like a kidnapper, and she smiles back. To her, he probably looks like a typical fifteen-year-old boy. He's wearing sneakers, black jeans, a gray hoodie. He's got a backpack slung over his shoulder.

And that's exactly what he is: a typical fifteen-year-old boy. A sophomore on the B honor roll. A kid with a messy room, an electric guitar, a notebook full of song lyrics, vague dreams about doing something great some day, a crush on a red-haired girl. The city is full of kids like him. America is full of kids like him. He's nothing special.

Except that he's carrying a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver in the waistband of his jeans and a gutful of confusion, a lifetime's resentment in his heart. A gnawing hunger for a father he's never known.

He kneels down now, retying his shoes for the third or fourth time. Fitz can imagine his father inside, straightening his silk tie, sipping a cup of fresh-ground, free-trade coffee, thinking about his day—a meeting with a client maybe, a deposition—no idea that someone is waiting for him, that his son has other plans.

Meet the Author

MICK COCHRANE is a professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College. USA Today called his middle-grade novel, The Girl Who Threw Butterflies, "A lovely coming-of-age novel . . . seasoned with small doses of Zen, baseball lore and history."

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Fitz 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
A short book that takes place mostly over the course of a day, Fitz shows the emotional toll taken on the child of an unplanned pregnancy and an absentee father. After shadowing his newly-found father for days, Fitz buys a gun and forces his father to drive off with him. Despite all Fitz's bravado, the young man doesn't really have a plan for what to do after he holds his dad hostage. Fitz learns that many of his assumptions about his father may not be true. The story ends a bit weakly, with things working out better than the reader might have expected. Teens will empathize with the path Fitz has chosen and will identify with his anger. A good resource for young adults in the same family situation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book