From Publishers Weekly
A strong narrative voice combined with a unique setting and eccentric characters propel Many's (My Life, Take Two) novel, despite some rushed plotting. With his parents on vacation, Nick walks across the state to visit his wild aunt Wanda on a funky commune-type farm. He hopes that Wanda and his parents will let him stay for the school year so he can avoid military school (he was kicked out of his last school for, among other things, accidentally setting fire to Wanda's former house). Nick rekindles his relationship with Wanda, gets a job at the doughnut shop where she works and bonds with his new community. He also befriends Diana, from a neighboring development, whose own troubles threaten to get Nick into more hot water. In his interspersed "foot notes," Nick explains his obsession with walking ("When you walk, everything is connected to everything else... no quick cuts like in commercials"). Diana tells him during a fight that he also uses walking to avoid conflicts. Nick's not the only one with problems: Wanda must face her own irresponsibility when she's fired from her job, and Diana is worried her sexually abusive father will attack her sisters. That's a lot to solve during one summer, and the plotting's pace is somewhat erratic (for example, Diana's transformation from playing pranks on the "hippie" farm to becoming a full-fledged member of their community seems sudden). Ultimately, the commune's exuberant celebrations, Nick's heart-to-heart talks with Wanda and funny, honest narration will keep readers along for his journey. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 8-10-During the summer between his junior and senior years in high school, Nick sets off on foot across his Midwestern state, trying to leave behind his cold home life and the prospect of a year at military school. He ends his trip at his aunt's home, a communal living situation peopled by middle-aged ex-hippies whose land is being encroached upon by a ritzy housing development. Nick and his aunt are old buddies and soon he has a job as well as a place to stay while he considers his future. The development, however, is home to a gaggle of nasty teens who periodically vandalize the hipsters' property-as well as to Diana, whom Nick works hard to get to know. By midsummer, she has decided to get her younger sisters and herself away from her abusive father; Nick willingly aids in this project, all the while rethinking his own family dynamics. Many is a skillful storyteller and the amount of adventure-both physical and psychological-that can be packed into one boy's summer works as he tells it. "Footnote" asides provide light but insightful riffs on contemporary American autocentricity. Nick is a refreshing character and the happy ending is well deserved by both him and readers.Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.