cover image Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly

Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly

Conrad Wesselhoeft. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-544-23269-3

Wesselhoeft follows Adios, Nirvana with the multilayered story of 17-year-old Arlo Santiago, whose extreme risk-taking, sparked by tragedy, could save (or end) his life. In recent months, Arlo's mother was killed in a convenience store holdup; his 12-year-old sister, Siouxsie, was diagnosed with Huntington's disease; and his father has begun drinking and letting the bills pile up. Arlo escapes by focusing on perfecting his dirt bike stunts and mastering the video game Drone Pilot. Out of the blue, the Air Force swoops in and%E2%80%94having recognized Arlo's gaming skills%E2%80%94offers him a healthy sum of money to fly real drones remotely in Pakistan to locate a terrorist leader. Wesselhoeft's mesmerizing descriptions of Conrad's New Mexico home ("The colors, washed, torn, and bled, the slow-burning fuse of a sky") and giddy exhilaration when he's riding his Yamaha bike ("I'm conscious of the danger, of the possibility of broken femurs and neck, but I'm not afraid. Just the opposite.... Every ache in every cell of my body stops hurting") will keep readers in the thrill of the moment. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Apr.)