Why We Took the Car [NOOK Book]

Overview


A beautifully written, darkly funny coming-of-age story from an award-winning, bestselling German author making his American debut.

Mike Klingenberg doesn't get why people think he's boring. Sure, he doesn't have many friends. (Okay, zero friends.) And everyone laughs at him when he reads his essays out loud in class. And he's never invited to parties - including the gorgeous Tatiana's party of the year.

Andre Tschichatschow, aka Tschick (not ...

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Why We Took the Car

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Overview


A beautifully written, darkly funny coming-of-age story from an award-winning, bestselling German author making his American debut.

Mike Klingenberg doesn't get why people think he's boring. Sure, he doesn't have many friends. (Okay, zero friends.) And everyone laughs at him when he reads his essays out loud in class. And he's never invited to parties - including the gorgeous Tatiana's party of the year.

Andre Tschichatschow, aka Tschick (not even the teachers can pronounce his name), is new in school, and a whole different kind of unpopular. He always looks like he's just been in a fight, his clothes are tragic, and he never talks to anyone.

But one day Tschick shows up at Mike's house out of the blue. Turns out he wasn't invited to Tatiana's party either, and he's ready to do something about it. Forget the popular kids: Together, Mike and Tschick are heading out on a road trip. No parents, no map, no destination. Will they get hopelessly lost in the middle of nowhere? Probably. Will they meet crazy people and get into serious trouble? Definitely. But will they ever be called boring again?

Not a chance.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
12/01/2013
Gr 8 Up—Mike, 14, is one of the only kids in his middle school not invited to the birthday blowout thrown by Tatiana, his secret crush. His home life is dismal—his alcoholic mother is in and out of rehab and his father is embittered, unfaithful, and nearly bankrupt. But everything has shifted with the arrival of transfer student Tschick, a child of Russian immigrants who is obviously bright but withdrawn and is frequently drunk during school. When Tschick hotwires an old Lada, the two boys light out for the territory and encounter a sequence of oddball characters, including Isa—a fiercely independent girl who lives in a junkyard and casually asks Mike whether he'd like to have sex or, as an afterthought, kiss her—and Horst Fricke, a gun-waving communist with a disconcerting interest in "the alabaster body of adolescence." The novel was a 2010 bestseller and award winner in Germany. Opening with "the smell of blood and coffee" and ending with Mike and his mom tossing furniture into the swimming pool, the story is offbeat and funny, and the main characters incisively drawn. For the right reader, it's a teen road movie with a bundle of twists. Still, while some cultural references will be transparent to American teens (Wikipedia, Beyoncé, Grand Theft Auto for PlayStation), the translation is also rich with local allusions and arcane discussion of German soccer. And though much of the story has a rollicking Gordon Korman feel to it, the language is often coarse and the mood chaotically dark.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA
The New York Times Book Review - Peter Behrens
By no means a wholesome story, Why We Took the Car is exuberant and without a mean bone in its narrative. American teenagers shouldn't have trouble relating to Mike and Tschick, recognizable characters from the universal school of teenage angst. The autobahns of Germany have, from Herrndorf's point of view, a lot in common with the interstates of, say, Kansas: fast-food restaurants, truck stops, blurred towns. The liveliness and charm of the two boys carry the reader along, until at last Mike taps into the real lessons of the road: that it never ends.
Publishers Weekly
★ 10/28/2013
German novelist Herrndorf makes his YA (and U.S.) debut with this action- and emotion-packed story of surprise summer adventure. When German eighth-grader Mike Klingenberg discovers that he’s among the few “Boring kids and losers... Russians, Nazis and idiots” who are not invited to his crush Tatiana’s birthday party, he is devastated. Mike is facing a miserable summer, with his mother in rehab and father away at a “business meeting” with his sexy assistant, when his new Russian classmate, Tschick (whom Mike considers “trash”), arrives at his house in a stolen car. An unlikely compatibility leads to a candy-fueled road trip, complicated by their lack of a map or cell phone. Driving all over Germany, the boys face conundrums like avoiding the police, buying gas and food when clearly underage, and vaguely seeking Tschick’s grandfather. Prepared by life to expect ill will, Mike and Tschick instead meet “almost only people from the one percent who weren’t bad.” Beginning at the end, with Mike narrating the explanation suggested by the title, this alternately wild, sad, hilarious, and tender tale chronicles the development of a strange and beautiful friendship. Ages 14–up. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

Kirkus Starred Review
Social misfits hit the Autobahn.

Mike Klingenberg has just finished another boring, socially awkward year in middle school and is staring down a solitary two-week stint at home, thanks to his mother’s latest round of rehab and his father’s “business trip” with a suspiciously attractive personal assistant. Just as he’s watering the lawn, imagining himself lord of a very small manor in suburban Berlin, class reject Tschick shows up in a “borrowed” old Soviet-era car, and the boys hatch a plan to hit the road. Mike’s rich interior life—he meditates on beauty and the meaning of life and spins self-mocking fantasies of himself as a great essayist—hasn’t translated well to the flirtatious physical swagger required by 8th grade. Tschick, meanwhile, is a badly dressed Russian immigrant who often shows up to school reeking of alcohol and who is also given to profound leaps of psychological insight. Their road trip (destination: Wallachia, a German euphemism for “the middle of nowhere”; also a region of Romania) is peopled by unexpected, often bizarre, largely benign characters who deepen Mike’s appreciation for humanity and life. Each episode in the boys’ journey grows more outrageous, leading readers to wonder how far they’ll go before coming to a literal screeching (and squealing) halt.

In his first novel translated into English, Herrndorf sits squarely and triumphantly at the intersection of literary tall tale and coming-of-age picaresque.

Publishers Weekly Starred Review
German novelist Herrndorf makes his YA (and U.S.) debut with this action- and emotion-packed story of surprise summer adventure. When German eighth-grader Mike Klingenberg discovers that he’s among the few “Boring kids and losers... Russians, Nazis and idiots” who are not invited to his crush Tatiana’s birthday party, he is devastated. Mike is facing a miserable summer, with his mother in rehab and father away at a “business meeting” with his sexy assistant, when his new Russian classmate, Tschick (whom Mike considers “trash”), arrives at his house in a stolen car. An unlikely compatibility leads to a candy-fueled road trip, complicated by their lack of a map or cell phone. Driving all over Germany, the boys face conundrums like avoiding the police, buying gas and food when clearly underage, and vaguely seeking Tschick’s grandfather. Prepared by life to expect ill will, Mike and Tschick instead meet “almost only people from the one percent who weren’t bad.” Beginning at the end, with Mike narrating the explanation suggested by the title, this alternately wild, sad, hilarious, and tender tale chronicles the development of a strange and beautiful friendship.

VOYA - Cathy Fiebelkorn
In Why We Took The Car, it is pedal to the metal from the opening pages as fourteen-year-old Mike Klingenberg sits in a police station beside the German autobahn, reeking of blood and urine, reeling from the possibility of criminal charges, and wondering what happened to his buddy, Andrej Tschichatschow (Tschick) now that their wild summer road trip in a stolen car has come to an end. Mike then narrates from the beginning, revealing how this adventure came to be. Mike and Tschick, both outcasts at school, both from homes without much parental supervision, unite when neither is invited to the hottest party of the year hosted by Tatiana, Mike's unrequited crush. According to Tschick, it is a simple problem to solve: Mike needs to find a way to stand out. After they make a memorable appearance at the party in the "borrowed" car, Tschick convinces Mike to accompany him on a road trip to the fabled Wallachia, where Tschick's grandfather apparently lives. Madcap, almost surreal adventures ensue as they find themselves in unusual places and situations with unusual people. Their experiences are alternately entertaining, bizarre, and at times worrisome, thanks to their monumentally bad decision-making. Readers will be anxious to discover how the journey ends, with consequences that are serious and life-changing, in ways both negative and positive. Though knowledge of German history and culture would be helpful, it is not necessary for readers to appreciate the humor and heart in Herrndorf's compelling coming-of-age tale. His authentic voice will resonate universally with teens and will draw some comparisons to Holden Caulfield and Huck Finn. Reviewer: Cathy Fiebelkorn
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-11-02
Social misfits hit the Autobahn. Mike Klingenberg has just finished another boring, socially awkward year in middle school and is staring down a solitary two-week stint at home, thanks to his mother's latest round of rehab and his father's "business trip" with a suspiciously attractive personal assistant. Just as he's watering the lawn, imagining himself lord of a very small manor in suburban Berlin, class reject Tschick shows up in a "borrowed" old Soviet-era car, and the boys hatch a plan to hit the road. Mike's rich interior life--he meditates on beauty and the meaning of life and spins self-mocking fantasies of himself as a great essayist--hasn't translated well to the flirtatious physical swagger required by 8th grade. Tschick, meanwhile, is a badly dressed Russian immigrant who often shows up to school reeking of alcohol and who is also given to profound leaps of psychological insight. Their road trip (destination: Wallachia, a German euphemism for "the middle of nowhere"; also a region of Romania) is peopled by unexpected, often bizarre, largely benign characters who deepen Mike's appreciation for humanity and life. Each episode in the boys' journey grows more outrageous, leading readers to wonder how far they'll go before coming to a literal screeching (and squealing) halt. In his first novel translated into English, Herrndorf sits squarely and triumphantly at the intersection of literary tall tale and coming-of-age picaresque. (Fiction. 14-17)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545586368
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 691,895
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author


Wolfgang Herrndorf was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1965, and studied painting before turning to writing later in his career. He has written several award-winning novels for adults, and WHY WE TOOK THE CAR is his American debut. He lives in Berlin.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 3, 2014

    This novel captured my attention from the very first page as we

    This novel captured my attention from the very first page as we meet our main character, Mike, in an interrogation room. He is very candid, and gives are overview of his surroundings, complete with the blood that is soaking through his shoes. When I first read that, I thought to myself that he was being overly dramatic, but readers soon find out that this is not the case, that there is literally blood soaking through his shoes… and then he passes out. Of course I wanted to know right away how Mike came to be in this situation, where the blood came from, what he had done to be detained by police; the usual questions, and so I began to tear through the pages, enamored by the story. But, whereas the beginning of the novel definitely has a hook, the middle soon began to lose my attention.

    Mike and Andre decide to take a stolen car and just drive, for no real reason aside from boredom, a lack of parental supervision, and the hurt of not being invited to a specific party. So obviously the next best idea is to drive around in a stolen car, one you barely know how to drive, and to have no real destination in mind aside from leaving the town for a while. While Mike is a “follow the rules” sort of tween, Andre has been in his fair amount of trouble, coming to school drunk on many an occasion, stealing cars, etc. The two are not friends by a long shot, but suddenly Mike finds himself hoping into a stolen car joy riding. Perhaps his father leaving on “business,” his mother’s leaving for rehab, and his lack of an invite to the girl of his dreams party were the final straws for Mike, but for me, it was all somewhat unbelievable. The adventures the two share as well were a bit on the “I don’t think that’d happen” side, and so I soon began to lose interest in the novel, which is a shame because the beginning really intrigued me.

    While the novel does come full circle, starting with the police station, back tracking to the events that lead up to the police station, and then surpassing it, in the end, I just wasn’t impressed with the reason behind Mike’s capture by police, or his antics thereafter in school. Perhaps it all just a bit too juvenile for me—I do think a MG reader would enjoy this novel straight through, but I definitely felt like it lost a lot of steam as it continued.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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