A Song For the Road

SparkPress/BookSparks/. Aug. 2019. 250p. pap. $16.95. ISBN 9781684630028.
Gr 8 Up–Fifteen-year-old Carter Danforth is already six feet tall, but in no way does he feel like a grown-up. After a tornado destroys the Tulsa home he shares with his mom, leaving her hospitalized, Carter displays a mix of adolescent emotions and decision-making skills as he sets out on his own for California to locate his absent father. Accompanying Carter on his mission is his dad’s old guitar that he bought back from a pawn shop where it landed after he left. Over the course of Carter’s journey, which includes several detours, he finds himself and his true purpose in life with the help of strangers—some kinder than others. Carter is realistically portrayed as a conflicted protagonist who sometimes contradicts himself in his effort to make sense of his world, particularly the meaning of family. The secondary characters, who could have easily been stereotypical, are instead multidimensional and complicated. Lacko’s descriptions of the desert Southwest, where Carter spends most of his journey, and its unique cuisine and culture, add texture to the story. Though Carter’s story relies on too many coincidences, plot contrivances, and a conveniently tidy ending, it is a nicely paced and entertaining read.
VERDICT A diverting novel that will appeal especially to teen readers interested in music.

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