The Degrees of Barley Lick

Running the Goat. Aug. 2021. 248p. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781927917404.
Gr 9 Up–At 49.1115° N, 122.7349° W, you will find Cloverdale, British Columbia, and a 16-year-old boy named Barley Lick (race not mentioned, assumed white). It’s 2005 and Barley’s greatest passion is geocaching, a hobby he shares with his ex-girlfriend and nemesis Phyllis Henderson. Being around Phyllis isn’t easy for him and neither is seeing his recently widowed mother date a new man. This man is a police officer who interrupts Barley’s participation in the GeoFind tournament to ask for his and Phyllis’s assistance with a kidnapping case in which the criminal is using geocaches to taunt the victim’s family. Unfortunately, this novel doesn’t follow through on its big promise of adventure and mystery. Chapters from the kidnapping victim’s point of view only add a faint sense of urgency, while the solution to the mystery itself is unsatisfying. Similarly, Barley is unlikable and not in an interesting way. Phyllis and Barley’s best friend Colin serves as the protagonist’s foil, but without much conflict.
VERDICT An additional purchase.

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