Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Luke Carver thinks that keeping a journal "sounds like a chick thing." Nonetheless, his English teacher wants him to write a little each day in preparation for the all- important college essay he will have to compose next year. Once he gets going, the 17-year-old doesn't mind writing, and he's pretty good at it, too; a poem he wrote several years ago, "The Falcon," was published in a magazine. His entries initiate a compelling journey of self-discovery. Luke's descriptions of his recent "screw-ups"blowing a couple of wrestling meets, wrecking the car several times and leaving the scene of an accidentseem to flow fast and furiously from his pen, but when his thoughts turn to a bigger crisis, losing his left eye, he stops short. Crossed-out, half-finished sentences provide a less-than- subtle trail of clues to the source of Luke's problems, including the guilt he feels for not living up to his parents' expectations. While Koller's (A Place to Call Home) foreshadowing feels clumsy and contrived, readers will feel the weight of the painful secret Luke has carried for four years, and they can't fail to miss his resemblance to the bird in his poem, who "sits/ with his head sagging down/ and his eyes staring up/ a chain around his leg." Ages 12-up. (May)
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
Although seventeen-year-old Luke is not enthusiastic about the journal-writing assignment given by his English teacher to help him prepare for college, he soon discovers that the experience is a positive way to get in touch with his feelings and problems related to wrestling, his relationships with his parents and girlfriend, and his dangerous tendency to take risks while driving and hiking. This realistic young adult novel, written in the first person and using current slang, features a believable protagonist who matures as he gradually comes to terms with a mysterious accident that occurred several years before.
VOYA - Nancy Zachary
Koller creates another stellar profile of a conflicted teen in the authentically-drawn character of seventeen-year-old Luke Carver. Feeling like "the falcon" in his own published poem, Luke finds his senior English writing assignment a daunting task. The reader is quickly drawn into Luke's social life, appreciating his complex relationship with Megan and identifying with the politics of the wrestling team. It is the references to Luke's risky adventures and the crossed-out lines in his personal diary that begin to reveal the mystery surrounding his disability. Visual imagery triggers a mood of sadness in this brooding character, and flashbacks of Luke's hospital experiences provide more clues to link his past with the secrecy of his behavior. Strong themes of responsibility, privacy, and invincibility are vividly presented through a teen perspective as are the bonds of friendship and prejudicial ideas about psychology and homosexuality. This engrossing narrative will touch all of its readers; my favorite exchanges took place between Luke and his father, where they discuss the difference between conscious choices and consequences. The narrative comes full circle, along with Luke, and concludes with a hopeful look to the future. This is an excellent choice for high interest/low reading level lists because of its mastery of troubled adolescence in a truthful voice. VOYA Codes: 5Q 5P M J S (Hard to imagine it being better written, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 9 UpLuke's English teacher assigns the class a daily journal-writing project. So begins the day-to-day adventures of an athletic and socially active 17 year old. Luke's sarcastic tone colors his entries with teen "attitude." Despite his best efforts, persistent flashbacks hint at his past. Crossed-out entries on random pages intensify readers' interest in what he isn't saying. There are indications that something is wrong with his eyesight. He shares that he has had a number of slight car accidents and has spent some time recovering from surgery, but stifles the details. His parents' apprehension, particularly over his driving, spark his temper. Thrilled and stimulated by physical achievement, he increasingly pushes himself into more reckless and adventurous activities. Finally, a climb up a steep mountain results in an injury to his other eye. This accident, which may leave Luke totally blind, becomes the catalyst for the young man to confront his past. During his studied and cautious disclosure of events, the truth painfully emerges. Readers will be drawn in by the journal technique and empathize with Luke's personal battles. Koller's portrayal of a foolhardy teen who feels invincible and is naive about irreversible consequence is incredibly well drawn. The strength of this novel is Luke's appearance as an ordinary 17 year old, doing the usual high-energy teen stuff. His past seeps out surreptitiously, adding powerful impact to an already interesting life.Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY
Koller follows up A Place To Call Home (1995) with this raw, funny-if-it- weren't-so-painful journal of a disabled teenager given to self-destructive behavior. Lukeþbig, good-natured, sensitive, popular, captain of the wrestling teamþis nonetheless tortured by something he won't put down in writing. His life has become a chain of disasters: He accidentally chops off his dog's tail; he secretly borrows the family car to crash a party, and his best friend Hutch chucks all over it; at 17 he already has a long record of collisions and speeding tickets, even though he considers himself a careful driver. Koller gives alert readers enough clues that it isn't a complete surprise when he finally works his way around to admitting that his left eye is artificial. That's plainly not the reason for his self-loathing, though. Caught in a severe downward internal spiral, convinced of his worthlessness, he breaks up with his girlfriend, punctures his good eye, begins to see a pediatric psychologist in the hospital while his eye heals, and finds himself rooming with a former schoolmate who attempted suicide rather than tell his parents that he's gay. Unsurprisingly, Luke's perspective improves. While he often sounds whiny, Luke is an appealing character, and readers will keep turning the pages, waiting for Koller to drop in the next piece of the puzzle that lies at the heart of Luke's anguish. A memorable case study in teenage guilt. (Fiction. 12-14)