A debut YA road novel tells the story of an Oklahoma teen traveling across the West with his father's guitar.
Fifteen-year-old Carter Danforth raids his single mother's savings in order to buy back the left-handed acoustic guitar that his father—a successful musician—pawned on the way out of town six years ago. (" ‘Creativity, Victory, Heart, and Discipline.' Those four words had mattered to his father, enough to have them custom-stained into the guitar. The inscription was as valuable to Carter as the guitar itself, proof his father once had some good in him.") But a tornado strikes Tulsa while Carter is in the pawn shop, and after a night hiding in the building's basement, he walks home only to discover that his house has been torn in two by the storm. When he finally locates his mother, she's lying in a hospital bed. She instructs him to buy himself a plane ticket to Reno to stay with his aunt—using the money he's already spent on the guitar, of course—but instead Carter decides to find his father in California. If he can get him to sign the guitar and increase its value, he'll be able to pay back his mother. On the road out west, he runs into all sorts of interesting characters, including a carpenter named Darren Bartles, who teach Carter about life and music—making the instrument that he's lugging around less a memento of his father's departure and more a tool to express the songs inside himself. Lacko's prose is as full of grit and color as a classic country ballad: "The old man on the stage jutted his jaw in Darren's direction. ‘We've seen him before,' he said with a voice made of velvet and gravel. ‘He's about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.' " Carter's is a heartwarming tale that mostly avoids sounding sentimental, with stakes that are simultaneously kitchen table and larger-than-life. It reads like the origin story of some mythic troubadour, and one can't help but start to feel romantic about Americana by the time Carter reaches the end of his road.
A sweet, twangy tale about a boy finding his future on the way to his past.