From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–The summer of '65 sizzles for high school sophomore-to-be Paul and his rural Minnesota family. They are members of a nondenominational Christian sect that practices communal farm work and fellowship. At his mother's urging, Paul lands a job in town at the Shell station where assorted bamboozlers give his worldview a whack upside the head. Will members of his sect condone Paul's worldly contact? Will he bring trouble upon himself for facilitating a fling between a beautiful schoolmate and the town bad boy? Or will his moral undoing be at the hands of Janet, 16, eldest child of the hippie couple who Dad charitably invites to camp at the farm while they repair their van? Teens will likely relate to details such as Paul's secretly listening to the radio under the blankets at night and his razor-sharp observations of his loving father. Male readers, especially, may be hooked by the steamy bits and will be rewarded by a cast of carefully shaped, diverse characters who illuminate important truths about that confusing time when Vietnam began to grow in the nation's collective consciousness as a constant, if hazy, backdrop to everything. The warm, affirming denouement suggests that life's highway is endlessly fascinating, frequently challenging, and bound to include some unanticipated bumps and detours.–Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
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Gr. 7-10. At his mother's suggestion, 15-year-old Wisconsin farm boy Paul Sutton takes a summer job "in town," pumping gas at the local Shell station. "You need to meet the public," his mother says, and for a boy from a conservative Christian background, what a revelation that public proves to be! There's Harry, a retired gangster (and murderer?); a family of hippies headed for San Francisco (it being 1965); a group of popular local kids (S. E. Hinton would have called them "Socs"); and more. It's enough to test one's faith. Of course it does, repeatedly, as Paul falls in love; discovers beer, marijuana, and rum-soaked cigars; and begins to question his most deeply held beliefs. There's a lot of familiar material in this coming-of-age novel that seems a sometimes uneasy mix of Lake Woebegone
and The Outsiders
but Weaver is a wonderful stylist and his beautifully chosen words put such a shine on his deeply felt story that most teens will be able to find their own faces reflected in its pages. Chances are, they'll like what they see. Michael CartCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved