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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alex has one last chance to stay out of the reformatory-to move in with his grandparents in a remote Oregon town and keep out of trouble for a year. He has grown up with an alcoholic mother whose chief talent is for lying ("She could say anything, and you'd believe her"), and he is so used to her erratic ways that regular breakfasts, friends and farm chores at his grandparents' are amazing to him. Morris could have stopped here with a happy ending, but she doesn't let Alex escape quite so easily. By accident, Alex starts a forest fire, and he can't bring himself to own up to it. Then a Walkman and a motorcycle disappear, and everyone blames him. This story isn't easy to read, yet its ultimately uplifting message is about not giving up, even if the life you get is not what you would have chosen. Authoritatively depicted, the stark beauty and small-town life of rural Oregon form a strong backdrop to a tale with the ring of truth. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Catherine Petrini
Fourteen-year-old felon, Alex Shafer, faces an ultimatum. If he gets into trouble while living with his grandparents in rural Oregon, he'll go to a juvenile detention center. Alex wants his new life to work. So why does he keep doing stupid things? He's angry with his absentee father. He's angry with his mother, who lies, drinks, and has too many boyfriends. Alex struggles to control his temper when classmates "dis" him for his city-long hair and earring. For a while, he thinks he's making it. But when items turn up stolen, Alex is the prime suspect. Author Morris knows better than to make this a simple story of reform. Alex learns and grows, stumbling toward self-discovery and forgiveness. But his problems have no pat solutions. Morris, rightly, refuses to wrap them up neatly at the end of the book. Alex often makes bad choices. In other words, he's touchingly realistic. Young readers will identify with Alex and cheer for him.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-One step away from a juvenile correction center, Alex, a rough L.A. teen, is placed with little-known grandparents in a small, rural Oregon community. His long hair and earring set him apart from his short-haired flannel-shirted schoolmates. Only Barry, resident misfit, and Mickey, an artistic girl, befriend him. His troubled past and bad luck soon trip him up. His dysfunctional mother's surprise visit triggers an emotional, unpleasant scene; he runs away and seeks shelter in an abandoned homestead, accidentally setting it on fire. Tensions escalate at school, where he is accused of stealing a walkman. Angry and paranoid, he flees again, hoping to elude his probation officer. Trapped by an early blizzard, he is rescued by a father whom he's never met. Alex is placed in a juvenile-correction facility after all, but his grandparents and Mickey help him to clear his name. Flat, stereotyped characters and predictable situations limit readers' sympathy for the protagonist and his plight. Though his grandparents and Mickey are fleshed out, the mother, probation officer, school personnel, and students are "types." Alden Carter's Up Country (Putnam, 1989) and S. E. Hinton's Taming the Star Runner (Dell, 1989) cover the same territory with more substantive plotting, multidimensional characters, and crisp narrative styles. Gary Paulsen's Harris and Me (Dell, 1995) uses humor to offset a thoughtful, powerful, bittersweet story of a boy from a thoroughly dysfunctional family who, like Alex, is sent to the country to live with relatives.-Alice Casey Smith, Sayreville War Memorial High School, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Despite a seemingly vindictive probation officer, a 14-year- old juvenile delinquent makes a fresh start with his grandparents in this realistic, swiftly paced novel.

Alex, 14, is the product of a terrible upbringingā€”his mother is an inveterate liar and a drifter who has never hesitated to strike him. Throughout the story that he narrates, Alex offers readers glimpses of his former life, traveling from city to city, where his mother "entertained" a string of boyfriends who were no more eager to see a small boy in the apartment than Alex was to see them. Frequently locked out of the house, he began to hang around in video arcades or parks where he eventually ended up in a fight, resulting in criminal charges against him. The book opens as Alex arrives at his grandparents' farm. Unlike the protagonist in Garland's Letters From the Mountain (see review, above), Alex is a boy with heart who might just overcome his poisonous past. Morris (The Future of Yen-Tzu, 1992, etc.) creates suspense by contrasting the influence of the people who show Alex kindness with the forces tempting him to dangerous behavior. The natural setting is a healing influence for the boy, who loves Western novels and unrealistically dreams of his absentee father coming to rescue him on a horse. The truth is finer than dreams, though; Alex, unfairly tested and tried, realizes that even under duress he can make the right choices for himself.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780788755255
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/8/2002
  • Format: Other
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2005

    A great book

    This book was very good. It realy was inspiring. This book hade suspence and i could feel what Alex was feeling.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2000

    Inspiring and Encourageing

    Alex is struggling with his life. He doesn't seem to understand what exactly is going on, yet tries to very much. In this well written book, Winifred Morris tries to capture the life of an alone 14 year old teenager who started out as a liar, and somehow manages to become a better person by the end of the novel. His grandparents encourage him, and his girlfriend accepts him as he is, or was. I greately enjoy books with such suspense yet passion. It somehow reminds me of what my life has been like, only without the juvenille detention.

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