Notes from the Midnight Driver

Notes from the Midnight Driver

4.5 120
by Jordan Sonnenblick, Peter Berkrot
     
 

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“Alex Peter Gregory, you are a moron!” Laurie slammed her palms down on my desk and stomped her foot. I get a lot of that.

One car crash.

One measly little car crash. And suddenly, I’m some kind of convicted felon.

My parents are getting divorced, my dad is shacking up with my third-grade teacher. I might be in love with a girl who could

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Overview

“Alex Peter Gregory, you are a moron!” Laurie slammed her palms down on my desk and stomped her foot. I get a lot of that.

One car crash.

One measly little car crash. And suddenly, I’m some kind of convicted felon.

My parents are getting divorced, my dad is shacking up with my third-grade teacher. I might be in love with a girl who could kill me with one finger, and now I’m sentenced to baby-sit some insane old guy.

What else could possibly go wrong?

This is the story of Alex Gregory, his guitar, his best gal pal Laurie, and the friendship of a lifetime that he never would have expected.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sonnenblick revisits several key themes from his debut novel, Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, to even greater effect here. Narrator Alex Gregory starts off by describing his maiden drinking episode: getting drunk alone, hijacking his mother's car in order to drive to his father's house and give the man a piece of his mind (his parents are separated), and taking an unplanned detour into a neighbor's yard, destroying a lawn gnome. What begins as humor takes on darker implications as the book progresses. Not because Alex has a drinking problem (he never takes another sip in the course of the book), but because of a drunk driver's impact on Sol Lewis, the resident of a nursing home to whom Alex is assigned by Judge J. Trent as part of his community service for his crime. Like Steven's Annette in Drums, Alex's female best friend, Laurie, sticks by him throughout this challenging time. And Sol, who starts out crotchety, turns out to be much wiser below the surface, and far more complicated. He even suggests to Alex that there may be more to the teen's relationship with Laurie than friendship. The bond that guitar-playing forges between Alex and Sol serves not only to make them peers musically, but also personally, allowing Sol to reveal his own past. While readers may figure out the significance of Alex's judge to the broader story before the hero does, they will likely find the ending no less satisfying. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Mary Beth Hutchinson
You realize quickly that the story is riding on rails. The track is neatly laid and predictable. You already know your final destination and every stop along the way. There are moments when the book does strike true chords and makes you laugh out loud (Sol's appearances in particular). But the jokes, coincidences, and characters all seem neatly engineered to bring you smoothly to the "important lessons" you are supposed to be learning.
VOYA - Diane Tuccillo
When sixteen-year-old Alex, in despair over the breakup of his parents, decides to get drunk and drive, he causes an accident that thankfully has as its only "victim" the garden gnome from someone's front lawn. Alex winds up in juvenile court and is assigned community service helping Sol, an old man in a nursing home. At first, Alex balks about being assigned to such a cranky and seemingly obnoxious person, but soon he discovers the man's secret past, the true meaning of friendship, and what is really important in life. As in his first novel, Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie (DayBue Publishing, 2004/VOYA December 2004; reprint Scholastic, 2005), Sonnenblick strikingly depicts serious situations while effectively balancing them with well integrated humor and even budding romance. Readers of the first book will recognize Steven and Annette's reappearance in this one through a musical connection with Alex and Sol. By means of realistic dialogue and unique although somewhat predictable plot twists, the well-drawn characters come alive. Intergenerational stories about relationships between teens and the elderly-even carefully crafted ones-do not always strike a chord with young adults, but Sonnenblick breaks the mold and provides a tale to which teens can easily relate.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Having seriously messed himself up by getting drunk and decapitating a garden gnome with his mom's car, sixteen-year-old Alex is assigned to a nursing home for his community service sentence: one hundred hours with Sol Lewis, the crankiest, most unapproachable member of the old folks' community. Alex relates the events of his epic junior year with first-person fervor. Getting past the accident, there's his parents' divorce (which precipitated his ill-fated night ride); his mixed emotions about his best friend, kung fu master Laurie; his attempts to keep up with his high school jazz band. Then there's Sol. Mr. "Gotcha!" gets under Alex's skin—then into his heart. Along the way to the rousing and touching ending of his tale, Alex does a lot of growing up. Along the way, too, the author creates some marvelous characters. Sonnenblick has a gift for dialogue and for caring, but never descends to schmaltz, as Sol would phrase it. This is a page-turner adventure of the heart.
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
It seems like a good idea at the time, but that might have something to do with all the vodka Alex drank: he jumps into his mother's car, intending to go tell off his father for leaving the family, and promptly crashes it. Ordered to do community service by a judge, the now very sober 16-year-old is assigned to visit a difficult elderly man named Sol at a local senior center. Grumpy Sol insults Alex relentlessly in Yiddish and in English, but the two slowly start to bond, especially when Alex, who plays the guitar, plans a musical show at the center and discovers that Sol was a famous musician. This funny tale by the author of the acclaimed Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie is genuinely heartwarming and entertaining, in the best senses of the words; as the publisher suggests, it's a sort of Tuesdays with Morrie for a younger audience. A real winner for all YA collections.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-After drinking some vodka and taking his mom's car for a spin to his father's girlfriend's house, who just happens to be his former third-grade teacher, 16-year-old Alex Gregory finds himself on his neighbors' lawn with police yelling at him and a broken gnome under his car. It is hard to believe that Alex would do anything like this; most of the time he hangs out with his friend Laurie, a sassy petite karate expert, and plays guitar in the school jazz band. He is also trying to get over his parents' recent split. For drinking and driving, Alex is sentenced to 100 hours of community service at a nursing home with Solomon Lewis. Sol is a difficult, crotchety, eccentric old man with emphysema who lashes out at Alex in strange Yiddish phrases. Soon Alex grows found of Sol, who teaches him something about the guitar, respecting the elderly, and taking responsibility for his actions. Alex's voice is fresh and funny, but doesn't downplay the serious situations. The other characters in the book are well defined and add interesting touches to the story. Fans of Sonnenblick's Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie (Turning Tide, 2004) will be pleased with this follow-up book in which Steven and Annette make a few brief appearances.-Shannon Seglin, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sonnenblick's sophomore effort opens with Alex, a 16-year-old guitar-playing wise guy drunkenly crashing his mom's car into a neighbor's lawn gnome. Alex is immediately arrested for underage DUI, and is sentenced, by a Judge Judy no less, to do community-service time in a nursing home. There he must keep company with belligerent, emphysema-ridden, raspy senior citizen Sol Lewis, who takes nothing but pleasure in torturing his young caregiver. Not surprisingly, the two grow closer and closer as the days wear on. Alex gives Sol companionship; Sol gives Alex advice on guitar playing, getting girls and pretty much any other teen problem he might have-each of which wrap up way too neatly in the end. Sonnenblick injects this overused, stale plotline, some of which seems to be repeated from his debut, with an upbeat, punchy style that is both funny and contemporary. It all feels too heartwarming to be true, but his fresh, unique insight into the teen voice will keep the readers chuckling and the pages turning. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher

HB
Jordan Sonnenblick Notes from the Midnight Driver
265 pp. Scholastic 10/06 ISBN 0-439-75779-7 $16.99 g
(High School)
Overwhelmed by his parents' acrimonious separation and his own general teen angst, sixteen-year-old Alex gets drunk on his father's left-behind vodka, steals his mother's keys while she's out on a date, and crashes her car into the neighbor's front lawn, decapitating a lawn gnome in the process. (That this opening scene is hilarious will clue readers in to the book's lighthearted approach.) In what he feels is a grossly unjust dispensation of justice, Alex is sentenced to one hundred hours of community service at a nursing home and there assigned to Sol Lewis, a notoriously difficult resident with a penchant for practical jokes. What could have been a maudlin tale is instead understated and irreverent, containing only the slightest hint of finger-wagging in deference to its theme of taking responsibility. The main subplots -- Sol's past regrets and love of music (a passion he shares with Alex); Alex's burgeoning romantic feelings for Laurie, his "terrifying Goth pixie" best friend -- are organic and consistently enriching, though the relationship between Sol and Alex's sentencing judge feels a tad tidy. Sonnenblick (Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, rev. 1/06) deftly infiltrates the teenage mind to produce a first-person narrative riddled with enough hapless confusion, mulish equivocation, and beleaguered deadpan humor to have readers nodding with recognition, sighing in sympathy, and gasping with laughter--often on the same page.

Booklist Starred
While his mother is out on a first date, 16-year-old Alex decides to get drunk, steal her car, and drive to his father's home, hoping catch him romancing one of Alex's former teachers. His goal? Revenge. Reality? A damaged car, a decapitated gnome, a drunk driving charge, and community service. He is ordered to serve his 100 hours visiting Solomon Lewis, the meanest, crankiest resident at Egbert P. Johnson Memorial Home for the Aged. Alex discovers that Solomon is also witty, intelligent, and a fighter–an old man who has lived all the joys, sorrows, and regrets of a long life. Sonnenblick has created a memorable cast of characters: acerbic Sol, a former famous jazz guitarist who is now dying of emphysema; narrator Alex, a budding guitarist with a tendency to make excuses rather than assume responsibility; and Alex's best friend Laurie, a tiny, pixielike karate master whom Sol refers to as Alex's “wife.” Even minor characters, such as Alex's parents and the judge, take on a heft and weight uncommon in YA literature, and teens will easily connect with Alex's epiphanies: “You can't just throw someone out of your life when they displease you,” and, “We're all free to choose some people to love, and then do it.” It all adds up to a funny, bittersweet tour de force. –Frances Bradburn
PW Starred

Sonnenblick revisits several key themes from his debut novel,Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie , to even greater effect here. Narrator Alex Gregory starts off by describing his maiden drinking episode: getting drunk alone, hijacking his mother's car in order to drive to his father's house and give the man a piece of his mind (his parents are separated), and taking an unplanned detour into a neighbor's yard, destroying a lawn gnome. What begins as humor takes on darker implications as the book progresses. Not because Alex has a drinking problem (he never takes another sip in the course of the book), but because of a drunk driver's impact on Sol Lewis, the resident of a nursing home to whom Alex is assigned by Judge J. Trent as part of his community service for his crime. Like Steven's Annette inDrums , Alex's female best friend, Laurie, sticks by him throughout this challenging time. And Sol, who starts out crotchety, turns out to be much wiser below the surface, and far more complicated. He even suggests to A

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781611061536
Publisher:
Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
02/20/2011
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
15 - 17 Years

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