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But Harley still has a conscience--barely. He doesn't strike his sisters; he's been trying to protect them. The oldest is sassy Amber, 16, who's having sex on the living-room couch with townies who abuse her; next is frighteningly stoic 12-year-old Misty, with eyes "a glazed brown like a medicine bottle"; the youngest is adorable Jody, who at 6 pens to-do lists with items such as "PRAY FOR DADDYS SOWL." Overburdened with the practicalities of life, and the ever-mounting losses, Harley has started seeing his own words floating in the air in front of his face. "CLOSURE. TRUTH. MOST GUYS."
This first novel opens well. O'Dell does an impeccable job of making Harley both brutal and forgivable. Here, for instance, he retreats to his basement room: "I lay there until dawn, thinking about Dad, and feeling the same useless frustration I had felt the first time I had seen him piss on a sparkling white drift of pure new snow."
But that delicacy is soon lost, and Back Roads risks becoming an overabundant affair, pitched high, with a roller-coaster trajectory. Harley's anger metamorphoses into an almost bloodthirsty lust for his sexy, middle-aged neighbor, which stirs up myriad forbidden family secrets. Misty, it turns out, has been hiding something. Amber revolts. And even Jody's scribbles turn malevolent. While the writing is good throughout, the tension and plotting assume an unpleasant adolescent posture--bodice-ripping passion and mordant gloom combined. Nonetheless, O'Dell's assured and touching portrait of her protagonist emerges unscathed. You will likely remember luckless, fated Harley Altmyer long after his tsunamic tale has receded. And no matter what the judge decides, you will understand why this impoverished, angry young man was probably the most innocent one of all. --Jean Lenihan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I liked the style and felt it captured the random thought patterns of the teenage protagonist. It made me want to read her other books.Published 5 days ago by NancyS
Read the other 1 star reviews--I've never seen so many comments that include "throwing this book away." I plan to do the same. Read morePublished 26 days ago by AA
Excellent. Well-written. Gives you a glimpse & a feel for the thoughts & mind of someone who has suffered abuse & how the mentally, emotionally process it.Published 1 month ago by Kathleen Ingraham
Maybe this will help your decision. This is the only book, that I can recall, ever having read twice.
This book is well written and has richly developed characters. If you don't object to reading dark, depressing subject matter, Back Roads is a good book. Read morePublished 1 month ago by cara
The main character, Harley is so unlikeable that I struggled to read the book. While the story was disturbing in all sorts of ways it was not moving, relatable, enjoyable or... Read morePublished 2 months ago by gayle