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The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys Hardcover – April 27, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—This compelling first novel about two Oregon teens and the road trip that irrevocably changes their lives begins with an attention-grabbing first line: "If I'm going to tell you how I killed this kid, I can't start on the day it happened." Self-proclaimed geek and talented artist Charlie Hill, 16, normally watches the world pass him by. He's certainly not the type you'd expect would take a life. But a succession of bad decisions rooted in good intentions puts naive Charlie and his well-meaning but manipulative ex-friend Jake Tucker (bonded by childhood delinquency/water-balloon lobbing and absent fathers) on a dangerous path. It starts with hopping into the principal's Mustang (stolen by Jake) to escape bully pummeling and ends with Charlie taking responsibility for his past and his future. This well-paced coming-of-age story follows the pair from Rexton to Denver, through police chases, thievery, drag racing, suicide intervention, self-discovery, peer pressure, confrontations, breaking and entering, difficult choices, and second-degree murder in self-defense. (A bit more on Charlie's incarceration experience mentioned in the final chapter wouldn't have hurt.) The novel ends with a fresh start for both teens. The book has violence, drug use, some swearing, and conversations about sex, but nothing is graphically described. Well-developed characters and twists and turns along the way reveal the complexity of friendship, the redemptive power of second chances, the importance of looking past preconceived notions, and the lasting effects of choices (major and "insignificant" alike) and the responsibility one takes for them. This is a good choice for reluctant readers.—Danielle Serra, Cliffside Park Public Library, NJ
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

“If I’m going to tell you how I killed this kid, I can’t start on the day it happened,” says high-school nerd Charlie Hill, who retraces the steps leading up to his crime in this gripping story that begins when he is about to be punched out by school bullies. Suddenly, his old friend Jake Tucker pulls up in a red ’67 Mustang. Charlie is rescued, albeit in the principal’s stolen car, and the two friends, who had grown apart, embark on a road trip from Washington State to Denver after the wild but oddly benevolent Jake decides that Charlie needs to see his estranged father. Eventually, Carter unravels the events leading up to the final tragedy, for which Jake is ready to take the blame. The early chapters feature a light tone, but the later chapters revolve around violence and teen melodrama, and this abrupt change is rather jarring. Some readers, though, will find Charlie’s plunge into life’s seamier side compelling. Fans of this title may want to move to G. Neri’s Surf Mules (2009), which features a similar road trip into the world of crime. Grades 8-11. --Todd Morning

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416971564
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416971566
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,689,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

SCOTT WILLIAM CARTER's first novel, The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys, was hailed by Publishers Weekly as a "touching and impressive debut" and won the prestigious Oregon Book Award. Since then, he has published ten novels and over fifty short stories, his fiction spanning a wide variety of genres and styles. His most recent book for younger readers, Wooden Bones, chronicles the untold story of Pinocchio and was singled out for praise by the Junior Library Guild. He lives in Oregon with his wife and children. Find out more about him at, where he blogs regularly about publishing, libraries, education, technology, creativity, and the need for a healthy "plugged / unplugged" approach to modern life. And other stuff, of course.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Terry L on June 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I obtained this book for my 13-year-son. It is definitely a page turner. It is well written, entertaining, and enjoyable to read.

However, because of some of the sexual language and such (not a great deal of it really), I won't be giving this book to my son for a while. I would suggest parents read this book before giving it to their children to read. But since it is a good book that you will most likely enjoy, that should not be a chore at all.

One good thing about this book other than the never-ending action and never-gets-boring pace is that is does teach a couple relevant lessons about people. I can't go into detail as that may give away too much information to those who have not read the book, but one thing the book points out is that what some people find important about others just maybe isn't what is really important in life.

Really, this is a good book. If your kid doesn't like to read, I would suggest his book. It tends to grab you, draw you into the action, and not let you go. Just read it yourself first to see if your child is of the age that you don't mind him reading some of the sex and drug talk parts of the book (which aren't bad really, but it might not be something you want your kid to be asking about yet depending upon his or her age).

Enjoyable book, well-written, teaches a couple good lessons.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Karen Keyte VINE VOICE on July 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"If you want to read a nice, happy little story where everything turns out all neat and tidy in the end, you should read some Hardy Boys or something, this isn't that kind of story." - Charlie Hill

Charlie and Jake were friends once, a long time ago. Back before both their lives changed, before divorces and everything that goes with them. They were BEST friends, in fact, when throwing water balloons at unsuspecting motorists was the height of entertainment, before Jake broke Charlie's Game Boy and refused to admit it. Now that it matters anymore, because that was a long time ago, like I said. Now, in the second half of high school, it's so long in the past that Charlie doesn't even have to avoid Jake's eyes in the hall and pretend they're strangers. They ARE strangers. Which just makes what happened, what started it all, that much more surreal.

Charlie had pretty much resigned himself to the beating Leo Gonzalez was in the act of giving him when Jake pulled up in the stolen car - the classic, cherry-red `67 Mustang also known as Principal Harkin's pride and joy. He probably could have done something else - given what happened in the end, he probably SHOULD have done something else - but at the time, it seemed to Charlie as if he had only two choices: jump in the stolen car and worry about the wrath of Principal Harkin later, or stay where he was and get beaten to a pulp right now. Charlie chose the car and that's how it started. - the crazy, random road trip that ended in a courtroom, several states away. But to truly understand, to wrap your mind around all the things that went wrong, you really have to begin with that choice.

This is one of those unexpected, amazing novels that is impossible to describe without giving too much away.
Read more ›
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By citymom VINE VOICE on April 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Last Great Getaway of the Waterballoon Boys is fast paced coming of age road trip with some unexpected twists. Charlie is rescued from a trouncing by the school bully by his ex-best friend Jake who's just stolen the principal's car.

And so begins a road trip. They team up with a super sad young woman and have to make choices about how involved to get with her life. They explore their friendship and Charlie,a talented artist, begins to rethink his plan for the future- which had been to be a doctor like his father.

Eventually they make it to Denver where Charlie's dad lives and the first line plays out - If I told you how I killed the kid I can't start with the day it happened. Won't be a spoiler, read the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was one of the best books I've read in the last year. Initially I picked it up because it was recommmended by a friend of mine whose taste in reading is very similar to mine. She's never steered me wrong so, even though I haven't read YA since I was a YA, I picked the book up.

And was glad I did.

From the first sentence I was hooked. I read the book in a little over a day, fearing that there was no way that the writer could bring this whole thing together for a successful ending.

I shouldn't have worried. It was great and I'll definitely be reading more of his stuff.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J.Prather TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book starts with a bang and ends with a bang. Unfortunately, I felt that it kind of meandered a bit in the middle, which diluted the deep emotional impact that it had been headed for. I loved the characters here. Jake and Charlie were both fully developed - I think every adult who reads this will be reminded of someone they knew in high school. I liked the message played out in this story that your life spins on a wheel and the choices you make can change who you are as a person. Charlie's realizations that these choices come along all the time, that high school is not real life, and that you can choose to do things that really matter were all important ones that will resonate with readers. I wish I had learned those lessons in high school!

Jake is the bad boy in the book, at least according to some standards. He's the one that leads Charlie on his epic quest and helps him learn the difference between what matters and what doesn't. Make no mistake, the lessons Charlie learns come at a high price that will shock most readers. Charlie and Jake's road trip is filled with talk of sex, drug use and profanity - all new things in Charlie's life. The action is non stop, and readers will easily relate to Charlie's fear and confusion as he struggles with trying to determine just who he is and what is important to him.

This is a good read, and even though it loses it's way a couple of times, still packs quite a punch. Most readers won't mind the detours and will find the ending satisfying even if some might think it's a bit too neat. Recommended.
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