"Walters captures the heart and spirit of the 16-year-old first time driver through Jake, the stereotypical teenage boy, who wants to be cool and drive a cool car...This is more than a story about street racing; it is about responsibility and accepting the consequences of one's actions. It is a story about growing up. Highly recommended."
"This book is slim, though it manages to look quite grown-up in its appearance. And the ending certainly opens the way to further thought and/or discussion."
"This is a gutsy, admirable attempt to provide a viable counter argument to the blinking lights of brain-dead video games and dimwit movies. This is perhaps the most effective employment of the reflective medium of print; an introduction to the internal voice of conscience, cause and effect and consequences. Walters has a disarming, empathetic way with his story. He understands the rhythms of an adolescent's speech; the id-driven energies behind their motivations."
Sixteen-year-old Jake is lucky: he's got his driver's license. However, this freedom comes with a pricedue to poor academic performance, he is repeating the ninth grade. Left behind by his former classmates, Jake spends his free time with Mickey, a fellow freshman. When his older brother loans Jake his car for a night on the town, Mickey sees this as a chance to pick up girls and drag race. Giving in to the pressure, Jake makes a poor decision that could have lifelong implications. Now he must do the right thing, as hard as it is. With its short chapters, easily defined conflict, and a main character who faces a tough and realistic decision, Overdrive, although written with teenage boys in mind, will be appealing to most reluctant readers. 2004, Orca, 102 pp., Ages young adult.
Aspiring mechanic Jake is elated when his brother loans him his souped-up Chevy on the first day of having his driver's license. The 300-plus horsepower goes to Jake's head, and he is goaded into a street race with his arch-nemesis, Luke. The Chevy dusts the Acura, but Luke does not know when to quit and plows into a SUV containing a man and his pregnant wife. Panicked, Jake drives away from the scene of the accident, encouraged by his passenger Mickey, who warns Jake to avoid trouble by keeping quiet about his "almost involvement." Inner turmoil ensues. The plot moves quickly-even the cover showing the arc of a speedometer edging past 80 mph/140 kmh, indicates speed. Part of Orca's new Soundings series for reluctant readers, this high interest, low reading level novel is simple, engaging, and well written. Characters have a slightly cookie-cutter feel-the wisecracking big brother, the mean teacher, the helpful adult mentor-and the length does not leave a lot of room for details, but it is still a satisfying read. The page count might appease some teachers who think that books with fewer than one hundred pages are not appropriate for grades six and up. Books from this imprint combine plots to which youth can relate and a moral dilemma that lends itself to classroom discussion. This particular title has more appeal for boys, and some of the vocabulary may be unfamiliar to those who are not car buffs. Pair with Shirlee Smith Matheson's Fastback Beach (Orca, 2003/VOYA February 2004), about car theft and repair. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J S (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Orca, 102p., pb. Ages 11 to 18.
You do not necessarily need the details of the consequences of an action but you should want to know if the character knows how to make the right choice. Eric Walters ends his story with the central narrating character, Jake, making a major decision. Jake is a ninth grader for a second year and the only ninth grader to get a driver's license. He takes his friend, Mickey, on his first drive. Jake gets himself into a short street race. Jake's competitor crashes into a turning car at an intersection. Jake swerves and barely misses the accident. He reluctantly continues going, taking Mickey's advice that he does not have to go back to the accident because he "didn't do anything." Jake struggles with his conscience and imagined consequences, as he hears sirens, sees lights flashing in his rear view mirror, and goes home. This short, eleven-chapter book will involve readers from page one. It would be a good addition to the library or a classroom collection and a great book for teachers or librarians to read to a class for journalizing and/or discussion. 2004 (orig. 1957), Orca Book Publishers, Ages 12 to 16.
Charlotte M. Krall