Ostrich Boys

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Overview

"It's not really kidnapping, is it? He'd have to be alive for it to be proper kidnapping."

Ross is dead, and Blake, Sim, and Kenny are furious. To make things right, they steal Ross's ashes and set out from their home on the English coast for the tiny village of Ross in southern Scotland, a place their best friend had always wanted to go. But the boys' plan for a quick two-day trip turns into an unforgettable journey with illegal train rides, bungee jumping, girls, and high-speed police chases—all with Ross's ...

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Overview

"It's not really kidnapping, is it? He'd have to be alive for it to be proper kidnapping."

Ross is dead, and Blake, Sim, and Kenny are furious. To make things right, they steal Ross's ashes and set out from their home on the English coast for the tiny village of Ross in southern Scotland, a place their best friend had always wanted to go. But the boys' plan for a quick two-day trip turns into an unforgettable journey with illegal train rides, bungee jumping, girls, and high-speed police chases—all with Ross's ashes along for the ride. As events spin wildly out of control, the three friends must take their heads out of the sand long enough to answer the question: What really happened to Ross?

An award-winning author in the U.K., Keith Gray makes his U.S. debut with this action-packed and darkly humorous YA novel about friendship and loss.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Sharon Oliver
Fifteen-year-old Ross is dead. His friends Blake, Sim, and Kenny are angry over the seeming hypocrisy of the mourners at Ross's too-formal funeral. Deciding that their friend deserved better, the three boys decide to fulfill Ross's wish to travel to Ross, Scotland, "to be Ross in Ross." How? By stealing Ross's ashes and setting off on an "adventure" to reach the Scottish countryside. After snatching the urn containing their friend's ashes and making a dash for the train to Scotland, the boys encounter one hurdle after another. The loss of Kenny's bag containing their funds and Kenny's train ticket sends them off on a journey that includes bungee jumping, stolen motorbikes, pretty girls, and most of all, secrets. As they make the trip the boys discover that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Ross's accident and that each of them is carrying a secret about Ross that may change them all forever. While Gray takes a long time to get to the heart of the matter, the well-constructed characters will keep you hanging on. Blake turns out to be an eloquent narrator for the story, "I could imagine myself looking down on the three of us...I'd see the invective flying out of Sim's mouth in daggers and blades...Kenny's moroseness would be a sodden gray quilt around his shoulders...While my own crestfallen figure was punctured, deflated, my skin creasing and sagging as all my hot air escaped." While some element of predictability exists for readers, enough surprises remain to stay engaged and the author leaves just enough ambiguity to make the reader wonder how the story really ends. The story is set in England and some terms unfamiliar to American teens are used as well as some mild profanity. An excellent choice for all libraries, this is a novel that stays with the reader long after the last page is turned. Reviewer: Sharon Oliver
Publishers Weekly
British author Gray’s U.S. debut is both an unusual twist on the road trip trope and a touching story of teenage friendship. After their friend Ross is struck by a car and killed while riding his bike, Blake, Kenny, and Sim decide to honor his memory. After a few acts of petty revenge on people who had made Ross’s last few days tough, they decide to steal his ashes and take them to the Scottish namesake town of Ross. Along the way, they get thrown off a train, lose their money, meet and flirt with three attractive Scottish girls, and discover some often uncomfortable truths about each other and their relationship with Ross. Gray’s story could have ended up a collection of coming-of-age clichés, but instead is likely to defy readers’ expectations as the boys make their way north. Although there are action sequences featuring escapes from the police, stolen mopeds, and even a bungee jump, it’s the relationship among the boys—expressed as much through believable teen banter as through obvious and emotional revelatory moments—that drives the story. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—When Ross was alive, he talked about creating great stories by living life to the fullest. He did not get to live his life very fully, but his dreams were big. One was to travel to his "namesake"—Ross, Scotland. After his funeral, which his best friends Kenny, Blake, and Sim deem unworthy of him, the three teens decide to kidnap his ashes and take them on a road trip from northern England to the small Scottish town. The boys are grieving and trying to honor their friend's memory, but things go increasingly wrong on the two-day trip and instead of turning around and calling for help, they keep moving forward, ignoring all sense, making bad moves at every turn. Although it concerns death and grief, the story is never heavy-handed; Gray offers plenty of humor and grace. Understanding of the boys grows with the story; they come to know themselves better, as readers do. Gray's writing is cheeky, crisp, and realistic. He has created funny, bright characters whom readers cannot help but root for. They act impulsively, but their actions come from the heart. At the end of their trip and of the book, things are not tied up neatly, but resolution is hinted at. This is a smart, touching novel with an ending that packs an emotional wallop.—Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Three 15-year-old English boys use the distraction of a road trip to avoid dealing with their best friend's suicide. Tough Sim, anxious Kenny and narrator Blake decide to take an impromptu trip to Ross, Scotland, with the stolen ashes of their mate (named Ross, of course), who recently died in a bicycle accident. On their way they lose money and bus tickets, go bungee jumping and race motorbikes, bicker and fall in love-all while trying to ignore the fact that Ross's death may have been intentional. Gray's characters strut, preen, pose and fret in a way that will instantly be recognized by any teenage boy, past or present. His text is full of both tender teenage rage and ribald bon mots: " ‘So you should die when you're on holiday or something?'...‘Yeah, or after you've just got a good look at Ross's sister's tits in the shower.' " Display this attitudinal British import between Don Calame's gleefully gross Swim the Fly (2009) and Melvin Burgess's Doing It (2003). (Fiction. 13 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Angry and dismayed by what they feel is hypocrisy displayed by mourners at their best friend's funeral, teenagers Blake, Sim, and Kenny decide to give their friend the memorial he deserves. They steal Ross's ashes and board a train headed to Scotland, intending to go to a small village called Ross, where their friend had wanted to go someday. Thus begins a memorable journey that will change the boys, their relationship with each other, and their feelings about Ross as more is discovered about how he died. British actor Bruce Mann skillfully navigates the realistic dialogue and the first-person narration of Keith Gray's moving novel (Random, 2010). Mann gives Sim and Kenny distinct voices that are true to their personalities. His subtle and nuanced performance enhances this affecting story of grief, friendship, and guilt. Though the story is told from Blake's point of view, it is about the journey of all three boys as they struggle with their own culpability.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375858437
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 3/23/2010
  • Pages: 304
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Keith Gray has won the Angus Book Award and the silver medal in the Smarties Prize. Visit him at his Web site, www.keith-gray.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Ostrich Boys


By Keith Gray

Random House Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2010 Keith Gray
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780375958434

One    

Our best friend was ash in a jar. Ross was dead. Kenny, Sim and I were learning to live with it.  

And this was all Sim's idea. It was just that Kenny and I weren't convinced exactly how great an idea it was.  

We'd had to wait for it to get dark, which at this time of year wasn't until after half-ten. We'd given it until eleven. Now we were crouched whispering in the shadow of some scraggy fir trees in the front garden of the history teacher's house. We hadbranches jabbing at us, needles in our hair and down the backs of our collars. But no matter how much we shuffled and hunkered, the shadow wasn't quite big enough. We were still wearing our dark funeral clothes, and that helped. The problem was Kenny, who keptsquirming, shoving bits of me and Sim out into the glare of the streetlights. All it would take was one eagle eye to look our way and we'd be seen for sure.  

A car sped by and we ducked our heads. It wasn't just the warm June night making me sweat.  

"This is for Ross, remember," Sim whispered. "We can't flake out now--we all agreed. You agreed too, Kenny. Don't say you didn't."  

Kenny made a noise--not quite yes, not quite no. "Can't we just put a note through his door or something? I'm tellingyou: if we get caught--"  

Sim looked disgusted. "Christ-on-a-bike, Kenny! You want to write a poem in a card too? A card with love hearts and rabbits wearing hats on the front?" He shook his head, popped the lid off the can of spray paint he was clutching. "No. It's got to be big."  

Kenny opened his mouth to argue but I nudged his arm, hushing him.  

Mr. Fowler's house was a corner terrace with a small square of scrappy garden on Brereton Ave--a busy enough road within walking distance of the pubs and clubs along the sea front. It was Friday night in Cleethorpes and for most people the only place tobe were those pubs and clubs. We could hear giggling and chatter from a group of girls clacking along the pavement in their heels. We huddled down even further under the fir trees, ignoring another showering of needles. One of the girls wanted to get a taxi,her feet were killing her--but her friends said it wasn't worth it, they were nearly there now. We waited for them to decide. I stared hard at the ground, hoping they wouldn't look at us if we didn't look at them.  

At last they walked on and I whispered, "Either we do it or we don't, okay? We can't stay here all night arguing about it." I didn't care how edgy I sounded. More edgy than nervous. Of course I was worried about being seen, but more than that I still wasn't convinced this was the right thing to do. For Ross, I mean. I didn't give a damn about Mr. Fowler.  

Two, three cars swept by.  

"I don't want to do it," Kenny said. "We shouldn't do it."  

"I'm gonna do it," Sim said.  

"Well, yeah," Kenny agreed. "It's your idea, so you should do it."  

Sim looked to me. "Blake?"  

"You're gonna do it whatever I say."  

He grinned. "I know."  

Kenny felt brave enough to poke his head out from under the low branches, looking toward the house's dark front windows. "D'you think he's in?"  

Sim shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not."  

"There're no lights on," I said. And then, just like that, one went on behind the front-room curtains. I ducked my head and swore.  

"He's in! He's in!" Kenny hissed. He scrabbled as far back under the fir trees as he could get, pushing me and Sim out into the open again. I had to elbow my way back into hiding.  

We kept our eyes on the glow of light behind those curtains. What was Mr. Fowler doing in there? Watching TV? Reading a book? Eating takeaway pizza? How come he could still do those things but our best friend was dead?  

Ross was hit by a car, knocked off his bike. At the funeral the vicar had called it an accident. But somehow the word wasn't enough. It wasn't big enough, powerful enough--didn't mean enough. He hadn't spilled a cup of tea, he hadn't tripped over his ownfeet. He'd had his life smashed out of him. It felt like there should be a whole new word invented just to describe it.  

Sim didn't seem in the least bit worried that the teacher being home might make his plan riskier. Although I didn't think I'd ever seen Sim get nervous about anything much. He was more comfortable being angry. He had these dark brown eyes that hardenedlike snooker balls whenever he got mad. And he'd always had short hair, but only yesterday he'd had it shorn to within a millimeter of its life, leaving his freshly exposed scalp much too pale compared to the rest of him. In his funeral getup he looked like a fifteen-year-old version of the bouncers who guarded the doors to the rowdy clubs along the sea front.  


From the Hardcover edition.

Continues...

Excerpted from Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray Copyright © 2010 by Keith Gray. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

    OSTRICH BOYS is about friendship and loyalty. Blake, Sim, and Kenny just lost their best friend, Ross. Hit by a car while riding his bike, he is gone and they can hardly believe it.

    After the boys attend his funeral, they decide the ceremony didn't do their friend justice. Ross was so much more than a collection of words and hymns. As a sort of revenge for the fact that he was taken in such unfair circumstances and at an early age, they concoct a plan to honor him in their own way.

    Ross always dreamed of visiting a town of the same name, Ross, Scotland. The three remaining friends "kidnap" Ross's ashes and head to Scotland. The removal of the funeral urn from Ross's home didn't go as smoothly as planned, so their scheme to take a train to Scotland and back in just two days turns into a sort of escape that has Ross's family and the families of the three boys frantic.

    Just before leaving Ross's house, his father confronted Blake about the possibility that Ross may have taken his own life by riding his bike into the path of the car. Blake is shocked by the question, as are Kenny and Sim, but shortly into their journey there is word that they have been on the evening news. Speculation is that the three boys are part of a suicide pact, and now the hunt is on.

    OSTRICH BOYS is filled with action and adventure. Each boy is unique - Blake is known as the intelligent one, Kenny is the computer whiz and happens to be the bankroll for their trip until he unfortunately forgets his bag while switching trains, and Sim possesses an amazing knowledge of collective nouns that is sure to fascinate and provide remarkably useless information for readers.

    Author Keith Gray combines bungee jumping, wild train rides, quirky characters, and the emotional upheaval of losing a close friend to create an incredible tale. A bit of a slow start might discourage some readers, but if they are encouraged to stick with it, most will find it a rewarding read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2012

    Great

    This book has action and adventure and comedy. This book will make you want to cry and laugh. Great and outstanding book overall.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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