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What begins as a lark, a joyride in Jeff's Bronco through a farmer's bean field, ends in a most unexpected summer. Giving up tennis, Jeff is thrust into helping with the harvest to pay off his debt. The strawberry fields are only a few miles away from the tennis courts, but worlds apart. The language of the Mexican workers, their culture, even their handshakes are different, not to mention the back-breaking work. When vandals repeatedly sabotage the farm's property, Jeff is ...

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What begins as a lark, a joyride in Jeff's Bronco through a farmer's bean field, ends in a most unexpected summer. Giving up tennis, Jeff is thrust into helping with the harvest to pay off his debt. The strawberry fields are only a few miles away from the tennis courts, but worlds apart. The language of the Mexican workers, their culture, even their handshakes are different, not to mention the back-breaking work. When vandals repeatedly sabotage the farm's property, Jeff is challenged to find his true allegiance in this highly readable novel told with sensitivity from a unique vantage point.

Instead of playing tennis, seventeen-year-old Jeff is required to spend his summer working on an Oregon strawberry farm where new friendships with field hands and migrant workers, as well as the farmer's daughter, change his outlook.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although slow-moving at first, Olson's debut novel convincingly relates the challenges of a teen tennis champ turned farmhand for the summer. High school senior Jeff McKenzie must work for three weeks on the Hamptons' berry farm to pay for damages caused by his "joyride" through one of their fields. Initially, he resents working alongside migrants from Mexico, but his repugnance predictably transforms into quiet respect for his co-workers and the Hamptons, especially the older daughter Alexa, who loves swimming as much as Jeff does tennis. Olson's attention to detail is both a strength and a weakness; she successfully evokes the grittiness of farm life, but some readers may grow impatient wading through long descriptive passages that detail the process of picking, weighing and delivering fruit to the cannery. The author's criticism of the country-club set (Jeff's friends and family) and empathy for the pickers is slightly overdrawn. Nonetheless, readers will likely be inspired by Jeff's decision to fight racism both in and out of the field. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)
The ALAN Review - Marjorie M. Kaiser
Living through a painful yet enlightening passage toward self-knowledge and expanded multicultural understanding with Jeff McKenzie, a reader of Joyride has neither map nor triptych. The journey takes Jeff and the reader into and out of Jeff himself as he learns the meaning of real work on a farm and comes to appreciate both farm families and migrant workers. Middle-class, somewhat pampered, Jeff knows what working hard means but only in relation to his tennis practice and games. Genuine labor is foreign to him until he crashes through a farmer's bean field and is required by law to make reparations through donated labor on the farm. Using description sparingly, Olson, nevertheless, manages to catch and offer an impression of the natural setting of Western Oregon where the story is set. Selective nature imagery coupled with effective use of dialogue, including Spanish, help the narrative move along at a pace that will engage middle and high school readers seeking out a good story.
VOYA - Pam Carlson
High schooler Jeff is forced to repay the damage he caused when he and a friend went joyriding through a bean field on the edge of town. He gives up a summer usually spent playing competitive tennis and hanging with friends at the country club to assist in harvesting strawberries at the Hampton farm. In this lily-white town, the only contact he has had with Hispanics is seeing them in the same fields he is now working. His family and friends try to keep him from getting close to the "beaners," not understanding his growing commitment to the success of the harvest, and to seeing people as individuals rather than as a group in which "all look alike." The field workers teach him soccer and build him a crude tennis court, even providing rackets purchased at the Goodwill store. When mysterious attackers damage the farm, Jeff returns the kindness shown him by helping find the culprits. He even begins a romance with the daughter of the owner. In short, Jeff discovers that he is basically decent and is disgusted by the shallowness he never saw before in himself. Some characters are stereotypical: the ever good-natured field workers, the isolated-from-real-life friends, and Jeff's parents, who are more concerned with his tennis game than his values. They are a contrast to the Hamptons, who work together and sacrifice for the harvest, showing Jeff what a family can be. His character grows and changes as a result. This story portrays a variety of lifestyles, blending them into an involving story for both city and country readers. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P J S (Readable without serious defects, Will appeal with pushing, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
Instead of spending his summer playing tennis and spending time with his girlfriend, seventeen-year-old Jeff must work on an Oregon strawberry farm to pay for the damage he did to the farm while joyriding in a car. While there, he makes new friendships with field hands and migrant workers as well as with the family's oldest daughter. His growing appreciation for the farm and the people there brings him into direct conflict with many people in town, including his own father, who are prejudiced against foreign workers. This first novel by Olson tackles many fascinating themes.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9Because Jeff McKenzie took his Bronco for a joyride through a bean field, he must spend the first few weeks of his summer vacation working on a farm to pay off the damages instead of playing tennis at the country club. As the days pass, he learns all about harvesting strawberries and experiences some significant changes in his attitude. His dislike of getting up early in the morning and reporting to the fields turns to eagerness to see his new friends. His feelings of resentment toward the farmer and his family and his negative attitude about the Mexican migrant pickers he works with are eventually replaced with understanding and compassion. In the end, he drops his country club girlfriend for the farmer's daughter and helps solve the mystery of who is responsible for vandalism on the farm. This feel-good story moves along leisurely enough to let the main characters develop, and to paint a satisfying picture of rural Oregon and the migrant experience. While the impact of the book is diminished by a predictable plot that is short on action and the flat, stereotypical minor characters, Olson presents issues concerning racism, migrant workers, and class distinctions in a realistic setting, and brings about a satisfying resolution.Tim Rausch, Crescent View Middle School, Sandy, UT
Kirkus Reviews
An affluent Oregon teenager undergoes some value adjustment when he's forced to help a grower with the strawberry harvest in this earnest and engaging debut. After ramming his Bronco into a water pump on a nighttime jaunt across a bean field, Jeff faces a month's labor to work off the debt. It comes at the worst possible time, as far as he's concerned, for he's angling for a sports scholarship for college and there is a major tennis tournament coming up. Initially uncomfortable with the crew of migrant workers, not to mention the farmer's hostile daughter, Alexa, Jeff fits in quickly; he discovers that he cares more and more about both the crop and the people, and is predictably surprised to learn that one of the rewards of hard physical labor is a new edge on the tennis court. With engrossing authority, Olson describes the trials and satisfactions of running a farm, the process of harvesting, and though she sidesteps many of the controversial aspects of using migrant labor, every comment about "beaners" or "wetbacks" draws an instant and crushing rejoinder from one character or another. A likable cast and several small plot twists buoy up the agenda, and at peak moments the author's competent prose shows glimmers of something finer. Some will want to balance this employer's-eye view of migrant labor with books such as S. Beth Atkin's Voices from the Fields (1993, not reviewed), but Olson knows how to keep readers turning the pages. (Fiction. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781563977589
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Edition description: 1ST BOYDS
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 850,726
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Gretchen Olson, a farmer herself, lives in Oregon.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 15, 2010

    this book is great JOYRIDE

    this book is really good i liked it cause it shows on what you do you have pay the consenquences and pay for what you did and it also shows that rascisism is not over yet and it still is goin on in this world and that you got to watch what you do and that mexicans are NOT bad there the same as eveybody else.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2000

    good book

    In this book it may start off slow but it gets better as you go on you can't put the book down but at the end it levas you hanging i hope the author writes a seguale to this book you just keep turning the page and cant put it down once you start reading it is adictive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 1999


    It was really interesting to see how the people lived and how they worked. I coudn't put it down!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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