Sixteen-year-old Finn Easton has his share of struggles. A bizarre childhood accident killed his mother and left him epileptic. Further, he has spent much of his life living down public assumptions, as his father penned a controversial, well-known science-fiction novel that featured a protagonist also named Finn. However, none of this stops him and his larger-than-life best friend, Cade Hernandez, from participating in wildly funny misdeeds. These include leading a chant of “Oldfucker! Oldfucker!” to welcome the governor, who is cursed with the phonetically similar name Altvatter, at a school assembly and participating in perhaps the most hilarious condom-buying scene ever imagined. Yet the story also offers nuance and depth, including but not limited to Finn’s headlong, sweetly real stumble into love with a girl named Julia, vivid descriptions of Southern California canyon country, Finn’s touchingly honest, kind relationship with his dad, and his fascinating habit of viewing time in terms of miles rather than minutes.
All of this and so many more exquisite details make this a breathtaking read. (Fiction. 14 & up) (Kirkus Reviews, May 2014 *STARRED REVIEW )
*"A wickedly witty and offbeat novel...a breathtaking read." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
Smith, Andrew. 100 Sideways Miles. Simon & Schuster, 2014. $17.99. 288p. 978-1-4424-4495-9.
At first glance, Finn Easton is an average sixteen-year-old guy: he lives with his father, step-mother, and little sister in California; he plays baseball; he has a crazy best friend named Cade, a trusty dog, and a new girlfriend, Julia. But Finn’s dad is a world-famous author, and Finn is an epileptic. These two factors make Finn’s life a bit otherworldly at times, when fact and fiction combine in disconcerting ways. Though realistic fiction, Finn’s story is one of the humbling, and sometimes dangerous, situations that come from both his frequent and unexpected seizures and being friends with Cade. Making things even more interesting are the dedicated fans of Finn’s dad’s most famous novel, in which there is an alien character named Finn who bears a striking resemblance to the real Finn, and those fans often treat Finn like the character in the book.
Smith’s boner-humor is in full force here, but it is too charming to find offensive. Even Finn’s f-bombs make sense in context (they are mostly post-seizure when Finn feels angry and disorganized, but even when they are not, they do not feel gratuitous). While Finn is a bit bland—he mentions more than once that he keeps his feelings inside, though he does have an interesting quirk in that he measures time in miles the earth travels per second—he is balanced by his over-the-top best friend, who is rumored to have bugged his history teacher—literally—to death. What results are the engaging adventures of two best friends on the verge of adulthood. John Green fans will enjoy Smith’s newest novel.
3Q 3P S (VOYA June 2014)
"John Green fans will enjoy Smith’s newest novel." (VOYA)
Finn Easton lives on the edge of disaster. A dead horse falling from a bridge injured him as a child at the same time that it killed his mother. Also, his writer dad featured not only Finn’s name but also his epilepsy in a novel that became a sci-fi cult classic, bringing his son unwanted notoriety. Also, Finn’s dog likes to rub up against dead things. Also, lastly, he lives in a California canyon that was the site of dam-break disaster, and during seizures, he sees the ghosts of two girls who died in the flood. Given all this, forging a positive identity seems almost impossible for Finn, especially when he is overshadowed by his best friend Cade, a charismatic jokester. Then Finn meets Julia, a new student from Chicago, and he finds that his oddball idiosyncrasies can be charming. When Julia returns to the Midwest, all seems lost, but a road trip with Cade, a heroic rescue during a flash flood, mistaken identities, and a long detour offer Finn chances to remake himself. Leavened with humor and high-school high jinks, this unpredictable story of love and friendship is close to perfect. This falls on the Winger (2013) side of Smith’s oeuvre rather than The Marbury Lens (2010) side, and its offbeat tone will endear it to fans of writers like Libba Bray. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Smith is a slow-but-sure publishing success story, with the recent Winger and Grasshopper Jungle bringing him overdue acclaim. Demand, too, is on the rise. (June 1, 2014 Booklist, STARRED REVIEW)
Smith dives back into the mind of a teenage boy in a story that’s less brutal or apocalyptic than his recent work (readers who know him from Grasshopper Jungle or Winger may keep waiting for the other shoe to drop), but similarly full of existential questions and sexuality run amok. When 16-year-old Finn Easton was a boy, he and his mother were crushed by a falling dead horse in a freak accident—Finn’s mother died, and he broke his back, leaving him with recurring epileptic episodes and a scar on his back. In the present, Finn is navigating relationships with his father, the author of a cult science-fiction novel; his raunchy best friend Cade; and a new girl in town, Julia. Road-trip shenanigans, condom-purchasing embarrassments, drunken parties, and stumbling attempts at first love all factor into the novel, but amid the loopy escapades, Finn’s musings about the universe’s constant dispersal and recycling of atoms, along with his habit for measuring time in the distance the Earth is forever racing around the sun, provide a memorable perspective on human (in)significance. Ages 12–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Sept.) (Publishers Weekly, June 16, 2014, STARRED REVIEW )
"I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed with, cried with, and rooted harder for a character than Finn Easton. His voice is so strong, so real, that his triumphs and failures felt like they were my own. I seriously loved this book." (Len Vlahos, author of The Scar Boys )
Finn Easton has lived his life in the shadow of a book. As a child, Finn was severely injured and his mother killed in a freak accident: a dead horse landed on them when it fell off a truck that was traveling over a bridge. After the accident, his father took many of Finn’s unique characteristics (his name, heterochromatic eyes, propensity to measure time in miles traveled by the Earth in orbit, struggle with epilepsy, and a particular scar along his back) and made them into a character in a Robert Heinlein–esque novel, The Lazarus Door. The novel has attained cult status around the world and made Finn’s life a nightmare. The only person who treats him as though he is not the character in the book is his best friend, Cade Hernandez, the tobacco-chewing, sex-obsessed, teacher-baiting hero to their classmates, beloved for his pitching skills and his ability to get most people—especially girls—to do whatever he wants. Late in their junior year, Julia Bishop moves in and Finn falls in love. She is creative and funny. When she announces that she is moving back home to Chicago shortly after Finn’s birthday, he is heartbroken, but decides to continue with his planned road trip with Cade to Dunston University in Oklahoma, a school they plan to attend unless Cade is drafted by the major leagues or is given an athletic scholarship to another university. The trip is the first time Finn has been out of California or away from home, and Cade helps him cut the cord by throwing away his cell while on the road in Arizona. While driving in a deluge in Oklahoma, they witness an accident and risk their own lives rescuing a little boy, a dog, and a grandfather from a raging river. More than a bit wandering, this will appeal to teens who like novels that with a bit of an absurdist edge.–Suanne B. Roush, formerly at Osceola High School, Seminole, FL (School Library Journal July 2014 *STARRED REVIEW)
*"This will appeal to teens who like novels that with a bit of an absurdist edge." (School Library Journal, starred review)
"Finn and Cade are a tag team for the ages. No one does male friendship (or vomit and accidental nudity) better than Andrew Smith." (S.A. Bodeen, author of The Compound)
High schooler Finn Easton has unusual scars on his back. Finn’s “emoticons”—so-called because they look like a colon, vertical slash, colon—are the result of a freak accident in which a dead horse fell from an overpass, killing his mother and crushing Finn. Besides the scars, Finn still experiences periodic “blank-outs,” or epileptic episodes. But he has a pretty good life otherwise: his novelist father loves him; his best friend, sex-obsessed Cade Hernandez, makes him laugh; and he has recently met Julia, the girl of his dreams. Yet he feels stuck in his father’s cult-classic sci-fi novel; after all, it was Finn’s scars that gave his father the idea for the book, and one of the main characters is named Finn. After Julia moves away, the crestfallen Finn embarks on a college visit with Cade, a trip that turns the boys into heroes. Finn has a funny, fluid narrative voice, and his banter with Cade is excellent—and often hilariously vulgar (Cade regularly notes the way Finn’s scars resemble something sexual; for example: “What flounders look like when they fuck”). If Finn is overly quirky—his way of thinking in distances rather than time is made a bit much of—Smith can be forgiven because his writing is so striking overall. (Finn’s first kiss with Julia is “a flooding exodus of everything uncontained, all those nouns, articles, verbs, emptying me completely.”) An unusual and memorable novel. (Horn Book Sept/Oct 2014)
"An unusual and memorable novel." (Horn Book)
*"This unpredictable story of love and friendship is close to perfect." (Booklist, starred review)
"The current of genuine warmth that runs through it ensures multiple revisits and enthusiastic sharing." (BCCB, starred review)
When Finn was seven years old, a dead horse fell out of a truck crossing a high bridge, landing on Finn and his mother, killing her and breaking his back, leaving him with a strange scar and a seizure disorder. Finn’s author father wove threads into a cult classic about aliens who come to earth, and Finn, now a teenager, can’t help but wonder if that isn’t who he really is—a creation of his father, destined to be forever trapped in a book he didn’t write. His best friend, Cade Hernandez, is no help, since Cade has his own way of setting things in motion that makes Finn part of a larger plan once again. When Julia Bishop comes into Finn’s life, he falls for her, and his need to break free becomes even more acute just as a chance to do so via a road trip comes to him. Finn’s journey to self-discovery is full of surprises in the form of tiny bursts of insight, humor and pathos as he negotiates first love and attempts to stay afloat in Cade’s sea of maddening self-confidence. Like Finn’s father, Cade is a wildly successful plotter, whereas Finn is running as fast as he can just to keep up. A mosaic of recurring motifs, subtle symbolism, wonderfully funny bits, and the best birthday present ever make this a book that repays close attention; the current of genuine warmth that runs through it ensures multiple revisits and enthusiastic sharing. (Bulletin, *STARRED REVIEW October 2014)
*"A mosaic of recurring motifs, subtle symbolism, wonderfully funny bits, and the best birthday present ever make this a book that repays close attention; the current of genuine warmth that runs through it ensures multiple revisits and enthusiastic sharing." (BCCB, starred review)
"If you're a young boy and a dead horse falls off a bridge, kills your mother, and leaves you with deep scars — and you're prone to epileptic seizures — you'd come to expect the unexpected. Still, it doesn't mean you have to like it. In the shadow of his best friend, the popular and athletic Cade, and forever tied to his fictional namesake in his father's best-selling sci-fi novel, Finn has trouble figuring out who he's supposed to be. Then he meets a new girl and for the first time writes his own story. Hilarious and heartbreaking, you'll be rooting for Finn all the way." (recommended by Lisa Yee, author, most recently of Warp Speed )