This is also on the Carnegie Shortlist for 2016.
Now, this book is a game of two halves – to use football parlance. On the one hand there is the story of Shelby Cooper. She is home schooled by her slightly eccentric (and cross stitch/ Scotland obsessed) mum and lives in a small town in America. Once a week she is allowed to go out, have an ice cream dinner with her mum, hit some balls at the batting cages (it’s a baseball thing apparently) and go to the library. There is a boy at the library who she fancies called Mark, who is part American Indian. Her mum has this thing about her not standing too close to the edge of the pavement in case she gets knocked over by a car. Basically her mum is super over protective and doesn’t let Shelby out of her sight unless she is going to ‘safe’ places like the library where she gets a cab and her mum picks her up at precisely eight o’clock. So as you can see, Shelby and her mum have a few issues.
Ok, so lets go back to the boy in the library. Just before she leaves one night to wait outside for her mum, he asks her if he can meet her after work. She says she can’t but is a bit flustered and as a result is early to meet her mum. She is also standing too close to the edge of the pavement. You can guess what happens next – she gets hit by a car. That’s when all the weird stuff starts happening. She sees a coyote who tells her that there will be two lies and then the truth, then she is transported into this dream world were she sees Mark (the boys she fancies) who also turns out to be a coyote. He is telling her that she is the chosen one and that they need to go and rescue the child from the Crone. (huh?) Shelby has had a recurring dream for years that she is stuck in a hospital and she can hear a child crying. She gets to the child (who is carrying a grey toy rabbit) and then she wakes up.
I’m going to be honest and say that if this book had been written just using the narrative about Shelby and her mum it would have been a thoroughly entertaining book. They go on the run after Shelby is released from hospital and Shelby soon realises that something is up. The truth comes out but she needs to decide which bits are lies and which bits are the truth. The whole coyote/ crone thing was just a bit weird and unnecessary. The road trip, the man they meet and her mum seduces (if the description of her mum is anything to go by, this man is very lonely!) and everything that happens afterwards would have made a really good, life affirming story. The whole American Indian myths thing would have also made a nice story. I see the connection – the metaphors were pretty strong, but the two connected were a little disjointed. I freely admit that I skipped through some of the coyote story.
On the whole an enjoyable, well written, pacey book that I would recommend. It might have suffered in that I needed to read it quickly for the Carnegie so tried to get through it in a day or so. But it’s good – just don’t take up cross stitch.
Also, riddle me this: How did she do the thing in the climbing shop at the end?? Answers on a postcard please. Or just comment at the bottom…
further reading – On The Road by Jack Kerouac (just because you all need to read it), Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov or The Ice Age by Kirsten Reed. All are really good American road trip books.
further watching – Thelma and Louise (when you’re older!)