I'm so thrilled to be on the 100 Sideways Miles blog tour for Andrew Smith! Read on for more about the book, my review, and a giveaway. Check out the tour schedule for more reviews.
About the book
100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 2 Sept, 2014
Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.
Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.
About the author
Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness—an Amazon “Best of the Year”) and The Marbury Lens (A YALSA BFYA, and Starred reviews and Best of the Year in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist).
Smith is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Stand Off, the sequel to Winger, coming in January 2015, is his ninth novel. He lives in Southern California.
To begin, I should tell you I know Andrew Smith. I met him in 2011, right after a Wall Street Journal article on YA books basically shat all over him and a few other terrific authors for writing children's literature that was "too dark". He's a great guy and an amazing writer. While the content of his novels are usually brutal, violent, darkly and scatologically humorous, which might make you think the author is some rough, tough ne'er-do-well, he's actually quite sensitive. Anyone who understands his writing understands that, just as he understands us and our feelings. (All the feels!)
While it would probably behoove me to tell you that I am giving the book an honest review regardless of how I think of Andrew, that wouldn't be quite true. I would be even less truthful to say I'm giving it a good review because I like him a lot, and want to spare his feelings. I want you to know I'm giving 100 Sideways Miles the most honest review that I can, given that I already presupposed it to be brilliant because it's written by Andrew Smith. I'm not sugar-coating it, because I don't have to.
Finn Easton's view of life, from his stance as an epileptic, uncertain, eventually heart-broken teenaged boy tilts the reader's perspective in unexpected ways. Whenever Finn has a seizure, all is beauty, and words cease to have meaning as the connections between them unravel in his brain. He marks time in miles instead of minutes, thinks of people in terms of their molecules, and how much or how little the microscopic bits of matter want to stay together or rejoin the universe. His best friend Cade, crass and a little insane, makes a great foil. Finn's crush, Julia Bishop, is a girl I'd fall in love with, myself. She's forthright and real. Their story unfolds like history rather than fiction.
Strange plot and lovable characters aside--I won't spoil anything for you--the real star of the show is Smith's prose. He has a penchant for taking normal, everyday words and stringing them together in unforgettable ways, like "the planet of humans and dogs", or "the knackery never shuts down", simple but lyrical to the point where I find myself thinking them throughout the day, when I think about politics and people, when I am planting seeds in the garden, when I'm shampooing my hair. "Twenty miles. Twenty miles." It's how many miles the earth travels per second. When he's not busy blowing your mind, Smith sneaks in relevant tidbits of history, like carrots in the meatloaf. I probably knew, but didn't remember, anything about the St. Francis dam disaster of 1928, and now I feel like I'll never forget it.
People who don't like Andrew Smith point and pick at his use of profanity as weakness. To me, they're the weak ones. His frank voice helps me feel understood; it echoes the way I think, speak, and feel. It makes us, his readers, feel like we're not alone. Not just that, but Smith's detractors are missing the point; they're missing the words and ideas that matter. "Twenty miles. Twenty miles." Every moment we stand still, we're moving.
100 Sideways Miles is darkly funny, deeply thoughtful, and a worthy addition to Andrew Smith's bildungsroman novels.
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