Books by Randy Powell

SWISSMIST by Randy Powell
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Nov. 4, 2008

Dry wit crackles through this intelligent novel about a teen boy's family troubles. Milo, a loner, aches for his irascible pseudo-philosopher father after his parents' divorce hurls his life into upheaval. Though he approaches it a great deal more sensitively than his dad, Milo is also driven to find his own way of making sense of the world. This leads him to struggle against his mom at times, as she moves them out of Seattle to a seedy apartment complex and then back to the city again. Though his rebelliousness is uncannily adolescent in spirit, it is appealingly tempered with good humor and a healthy dose of self-knowledge. Following him from fifth through tenth grade, the narrative vividly portrays Milo's experiences as he begins to understand more about a beloved teacher, contends with additions to his family and ponders the adult world he is rapidly approaching. As the plot meanders to a quietly satisfying close, few will be surprised to find that Milo's emotional growth has surpassed his father's. (Fiction. 13 & up)Read full book review >
RUN IF YOU DARE by Randy Powell
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: April 13, 2001

Many young men have a moment of reckoning as they look toward the future. These are the moments that author Powell writes about best. His portrayal of Dean's moment of truth in Dean Duffy (1995) is superb; Gardner Dickinson's "moment" in Powell's latest offering isn't far behind. Gardner is 14 and is watching his family crumble as his 49-year-old father enters month six of unemployment. Gardner's mother has returned to work to keep the family going and encourages his father to take his time finding the right job, even as she worries about their future. But the Dickinsons are finding it increasingly difficult to cover up the embarrassment of an out-of-work husband and father. Gardner, meanwhile, spends the first third of the book pretending everything is fine and in fact enjoying having his father around. Powell writes about father-son interactions with insight and accuracy. Gardner and his dad have many long, philosophical discussions, and it comes out that his father is thinking of leaving the family, essentially running away. These conversations become Gardner's moment of truth. He begins a rigorous program of physical self-improvement, including running and weight-lifting and begins to think seriously about what kind of future he wants. More important, he begins to think about having passion for something, not drifting through life as it appears his father has done. While there are no concrete resolutions at the close of this book, this is nevertheless a satisfying read on a topic not often seen for this readership. (Fiction. 12-14)Read full book review >
THREE OYSTERS AND A CLAM by Randy Powell
FICTION
Released: April 1, 2001

Three eleventh-graders grapple with the challenge of expanding beyond their small social circle as they spend a weekend seeking a fourth member for their flag-football team in this mildly entertaining novel. Narrator Flint has been best friends with Rick Beaterson and Dwight Deshutsis since first grade, and flag-football teammates since fifth. On their team, Three Clams and an Oyster, they are the clams, and the Oyster, who hikes, has been Cade Savage, ever since the team's founder died in an accident. When Cade, who is increasingly into drink and drugs, blows off their first practice and pre-season game, the three friends set up tryouts with three possible players, including a girl. The dialogue, which mostly takes place as they drive around the Seattle area, rings of authenticity, including lots of humor but also insults based on being like a female, occasional gay slurs, and disgusted shock when the girl player has unshaven legs. The main theme, conveyed without subtlety, concerns whether they are too set in their ways and if they should be more open to new friends and experiences. While they clash credibly with each other, they are basically good-hearted, loyal, and likable, so readers may well enjoy going along for the ride. In the end, though, the story and its concerns are slight, not as engaging as Powell's Run If You Dare (2001), which offers more substantial character development and depth. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
Released: April 20, 1999

A teenager confronts a stomach-churning change in living arrangements in this thought-provoking tale from Powell (Dean Duffy, 1995, etc.). Three years after Grady's rock star mother fatally overdoses, his grandmother and her new husband are about to trade in their house for an RV; he is facing the prospect of moving into the conservative Christian household of his beloved, mentally retarded half-brother Louie. A history of radical antagonism between Grady and Louie's domineering stepmother Vickie makes this prospect unappetizing to him; deeply resentful of Vickie's insistent efforts to distance Louie from anything that might remind him of his biological mother, Grady loses no opportunities to get under her skin. Ushering Grady past his reluctance, as well as ample self-doubt and residual grief, is his genuine affection—which is reciprocated—for Louis, a boisterous, not entirely naive character who leads a strong, nonstereotypical supporting cast. By the end, though the skies are far from clear, Vickie and Grady are headed toward a truce, each recognizing in the other a sincere will to give it a try. Although Powell occasionally indulges in overt psychologizing, he allows readers to see for themselves what drives a set of engaging, often surprising characters. (Fiction. 12-15) Read full book review >
THE WHISTLING TOILETS by Randy Powell
FICTION
Released: Sept. 25, 1996

At 16, Stan Claxton doesn't think very highly of himself. He's done a few things of which he's definitely not proud, and his only skill seems to be coaching his ``runts,'' a bunch of impoverished kids who meet at a dilapidated rec center for tennis. Then he's offered another job, this time coaching Ginny, a nationally ranked junior player who's fallen into a potentially career-ending slump. Together they prepare her for a local tournament that could be her fresh start, if only Stan can restore her confidence and drive to win. Ginny helps Stan to face some hard truths about himself, too. If this sounds like just another romance with a sports setting, it's not. It's something of a love story, in which two really likable and interesting characters share a profound friendship that transcends infatuation and leads them to a better understanding of themselves and each other. Along with a shining cast of secondary characters, the novel is crammed with laugh-out-loud humor and dialogue that fairly crackles. The book may be most reminiscent of Chris Crutcher's early, edgy work—no faint praise—but it has a unique feature that is surely all Powell's own: whistling toilets. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
DEAN DUFFY by Randy Powell
FICTION
Released: April 1, 1995

Decision Time for Dean Duffy, high school baseball ex-star, now graduated. Once a shoo-in for the majors, Dean has not only been knocked off the mound by an arm injury, he's seen his spectacular batting average shrink during his junior and senior years. Now he has no idea what to do next—until his mentor Jack Trant, once a major leaguer, offers him a second shot: an apartment where he can get away from everyone to think things over and a one-semester sports scholarship to a small college. He takes the apartment, looks up two acquaintances who have taken wrong turns in life, and contemplates the pleasures of just drifting. He meets Karin, a young woman who gives him a gentle kick in the pants, and though his final decision about the scholarship remains unstated, Dean draws some conclusions about self-respect and responsibility that make his choice clear enough. Despite a moment of physical danger, when Dean climbs into a treacherous ravine to fetch an old home run ball, the story has a restrained, low-key tone (a golf game is virtually the only sports action), and Powell (Is Kissing a Girl Who Smokes Like Licking and Ashtray?, 1992, etc.) lays out a neat pattern of options and pitfalls. This simplicity might be just the ticket for some readers who have reached that pivotal point themselves, although other books, such as Julian Thompson's Herb Seasoning (1990) explore the topic more colorfully. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: June 24, 1992

A light teen comedy about a shy, underdeveloped senior and his rebellious younger cousin, who meet and loosen each other up. Biff has driven past classmate Tommie Isaac's house 184 times but can't work up the nerve to say more that ``hi'' to her; Heidi, suspended for mouthing off and needing a break from her foster parents, is spending a week with her aunt and uncle. At first she looks on Biff only as a convenient way to sneak out for a smoke, but as the two spend time together it becomes plain that his reliability and common sense strike a chord in her; meanwhile, Biff is dazzled by Heidi's daring attitude and pronounced mood swings. The adult cast is appropriately quirky but also faintly tragic—Heidi's father is a burned-out writer; Biff's uncle is a talented English teacher who has sold out and entered law school; Biff's sister, 26, is a wealthy but driven entrepreneur. An engaging, readable story featuring razor-sharp dialogue, nicely articulated chemistry between the characters, and a happy ending. (Fiction. 12-15) Read full book review >