Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review of Road Trip by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen

"Dogs never lie or cheat, and their default setting is love.  Some may seem grumpy, but all dogs have honor, humor and dignity and, if you're really lucky and you pay attention, they will bring out those same characteristics in you."

Road Trip by 
Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen

Publication Date January 8, 2013

Ages 10 and up (from the publisher)

128 pages

Review digital copy provided by NetGalley
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Who doesn't love Gary Paulsen?  He is a beloved author who is mostly noted for writing books geared toward young adults.  This is not the first time Paulsen has written about dogs, but it is the first time he has teamed up to write a book with his son, Jim Paulsen (a sculptor and former teacher). 

The book begins with 14 year-old Ben and his Dad starting out on a road trip to rescue a puppy.  Ben's family loves dogs and Ben is looking forward to getting another border collie. Atticus, their current 15 year-old border collie thinks he is more of a person than a dog and doesn't exactly love the idea of getting a dog, but he is enjoying the trip. The story is mostly told by Ben, but there are a few chapters where Atticus narrates the events from his point of view.  These descriptions add nicely to the development of the story. 

Early in the trip, Ben's impulsive and quite flaky father tells him that he has quit his job in order to start a business flipping houses.  The news is of little consequence to Ben until his dad explains that Ben might not be able to attend hockey camp because of the family's lack of finances.  

Ben is so upset by the news that he decides to give his father the silent treatment for most of the trip.  To further show his anger, Ben invites his friend Theo to go with them. Theo is a bit rough around the edges and Ben knows his father doesn't approve of their friendship. The trio are not far along in their trip when everything starts to go wrong. However, with every challenge a new character is introduced. 

First, the truck breaks down and needs extensive repairs. This is where we meet Gus, an ornery, old mechanic with a sharp tongue and a big heart.  After he learns about the puppy rescue, he lets the travelers borrow his old school bus, as long as he gets to go along with them.  

Next, they stop at a pub where we meet Mia the waitress/aspiring actress.  She is throwing a burly young man out of the pub with gusto.  Mia is an attractive and tough older teen who is very spiritual and in touch with the emotions of others. Both boys are instantly intrigued by her.  After Theo nearly gets in a fight with the ejected man, Mia gets to know the group and ends up traveling with them on the bus.  

It is at this point that Theo starts acting distracted and nervous and we find out he has been keeping a secret.  This unlikely group of new friends bonds during the next few days as they try to get to the border collie.

The last third of the book is a whirlwind.  Theo is being followed by criminals who want to hurt him and the group is trying to lose him with the help of some local police officers.  Will they ever make it to the puppy before someone else takes him? Will Ben ever forgive his father?  Will Theo survive and turn his life around? It all ties up nicely at the end for the reader.

Paulsen did a great job of creating tension near the end and providing a few surprises along the way.  However, the beginning third of the book was a bit slow for me.  The book is definitely meant for young adults with situations such a "flipping the bird" and some slightly romantic situations. I would not recommend it for students under 5th grade.  

Gary and Jim Paulsen have taken their love of dogs and created a great novel. You don't have to be a dog lover to really enjoy this book.  It will appeal to a wide variety of readers including reluctant readers.   

Click here for a list of books by Gary Paulsen.

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