From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up This is a story of one misfortune after another. As the book opens, Ry, a 16-year-old Wisconsin resident en route to camp, is left behind in Middle-of-Nowhere, MT, as his stalled train pulls out and he recounts the events that led him to leave the train in the first place. Bad goes to worse: he loses a shoe and his phone charger, his grandfather back home is injured, and his parents are having their own misadventures in the Caribbean. A superhero of a fix-it guy named Del helps Ry to put his life back together. Along the way, readers learn that there is more to Del than initially meets the eye. The story is told in a traditional, episodic style, bouncing from one calamity to the next. The narration occasionally switches perspective to include the grandfather's tale of woe as well as well-drawn graphic-style portrayals of the family dogs' mishaps. The style is reminiscent of Chris Crutcher's, and the action is evocative of Gary Paulsen, but the freewheeling prose, quirky humor, and subtle life lessons are all Perkins's own. This novel is not going to be every teen boy's cup of tea, but its charms are undeniable. Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL
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*Starred Review* Sixteen-year-old Ry opens a letter en route to a summer program informing him that camp has been canceled because “a statistically improbable number of things have gone wrong.“ He hops off the train in Montana to figure out what to do, and his own series of improbable misfortunes begins—the train moves on without him (but with all his stuff), leaving him alone with a dying cell phone in the precise middle of nowhere. Oh, and one of his shoes just floated off down a river. He befriends a man named Del, who figures there's nothing he can't fix (when it comes to other people's problems, anyway). They set off on a cross-country road trip to get Ry back home and then, due to any number of minor and major catastrophes, to an island in the Caribbean. Ever-placid Del and milquetoast Ry make for affable traveling companions, but the real pleasure is Perkins' relentlessly entertaining writing. She dabbles just on the clever side of intruding on the narrative, and she infuses her prose with more personality than many could squeeze out of an entire cast. The knock against her Newbery-winning Criss Cross (2006) was a lack of plot, and although a lot of things happen here, it would be a stretch to call this leisurely novel plot-driven. The point is that it doesn't matter, and wallowing in the wry humor, small but potent truths, and cheerful implausibility is an absolute delight. Grades 8-11. --Ian Chipman