cover image The Car

The Car

Gary Paulsen. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-15-292878-0

Fourteen-year-old Terry Anders is a 1990s Huck Finn, with parents as neglectful as ``Pap.'' Like Huck he escapes, not on a raft but by constructing a kit car. He takes his red Blakely Bearcat out to the highway and points it west, intending to leave his home in Cleveland for Oregon, where he hopes to find the uncle he only vaguely remembers. Long before he reaches his destination, Terry meets up with a middle-aged wanderer named Waylon, who introduces him to his old friend, the free-living Wayne. The pair, Vietnam vets, lead the young protagonist on a string of impromptu adventures and eventually become his mentors, introducing him to the history, hypocrisy and beauty of his country. Besides evoking a type of independence and tough-mindedness that will appeal to teens, this provocative novel introduces and explores some interesting philosophies of life while stressing the value of learning from experience. Once again the Newbery Honor author demonstrates his abilities to create flesh-and-blood characters and to relate a message without preaching a moral. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)