Driving Lessons

Catherine Dexter, Author Candlewick Press (MA) $16.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7636-0515-5
Dexter (Safe Return) creates a strong heroine in this story of first love, loss and forgiveness. As the novel opens, 14 -year-old Mattie Lewis arrives in White Stone, S. Dak., where her mother has sent her to spend the summer with Belle, an old family friend. Mattie quickly develops a relationship with Lester, a slightly edgy and dangerous older boy, who teaches her, among other things, how to drive; then the two suddenly stop seeing each other. In her struggle to recover memories of her father, who died 10 years ago, Mattie opens up to Lester's uncle Philip, a town librarian who shows her historical primary documents of Mattie's great-grandfather. The documents provide a potentially interesting but undeveloped parallel story. When Mattie decides to steal a car to gain attention from her mother, Lester gets the blame (he has a past record of stealing cars) but all is resolved fairly in the end. Philip, Belle and Mrs. Kleiger (Mattie's boss and owner of the stolen car) form a network of sympathetic and generous adult characters in this small town. The author overworks the central metaphor of driving lessons, but her story captures Mattie's inner life as she learns to voice her sadness and anger. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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