Sometimes life just isn’t going your way and you don’t know how to dig yourself out. If you’re Andrew, you make a Thanksgiving dinner escape and join a group of circus performing Freegans for a road trip adventure.
Andrew has been in a funk since his parents’ divorce. He lives with his mom, who is also the headmaster at the all-girls school he attends. He’s always in trouble for not living up to his potential, and when his bullying cousin ruins Thanksgiving he can’t take it anymore. An impromptu plan to visit his beloved Grandma is a bust once Andrew’s mom confesses that Grandma died this week. With Into the Wild in tow, he hitches a ride for a journey of self-discovery with the band of teenage misfits he meets at the bus station.
I first found out about this book around Thanksgiving time when I was looking for books/movies centered on that holiday. It seems like many Thanksgiving family dinners are awkward affairs, and in this book things are so bad Andrew takes off before the dinner even begins! Road trip books are such great backdrops for coming of age stories, and this wayward journey is just what Andrew needs to find himself.
Andrew doesn’t have the best social skills and is shy and awkward at school. This fresh start with a van full of strangers shows him compassion and gives him a boost of confidence that he can make friends, survive on his own, and make a difference. This makeshift family includes teens that ran away for a variety of reasons, and helps Andrew to see life from a new perspective.
On the road, the group earns their supper by working on a farm, street performing, and washing dishes in a restaurant. A lot of their food on the road comes from dumpster diving in the back of big-box stores.
We get to know some of the backstories of Andrew’s new friends, especially the two girls he travels with. G is the girl who recruits Andrew and shows him the ropes. And Emily is the unattainable dreadlocked girl that Andrew is smitten with. Andrew has never had much game with the opposite sex but gains some confidence on the road.
Sashi Kaufman’s debut is quiet, quirky and observant. I liked the male voice of the outsider Andrew and seeing how his character evolves over the cross-country road trip. I’m sure a lot of teens will relate to Andrew’s feelings of being stuck and need for escape. This book also shows a different sort of survival story than we usually see in YA, and inspires compassion for those that choose an unconventional path. This heartfelt book provides a lot of food for thought and would be great to discuss in a book group.
I received a review copy of The Other Way Around from Carolrhoda Lab/Edelweiss, and no bribes of smoked tofu dinners or Smurts t-shirts were exchanged. Pick up a copy for your shelf on March 1: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound * Goodreads