A Canadian preteen with a deeply unreliable mother hits the road with a fellow runaway amid the chaos of Rodney King–era America.
Award-winning young-adult novelist Little (Anatomy of a Girl Gang, 2014, etc.) spins a bleak tale of wayward youth in this throwback novel set in the grunge era. Eleven-year-old Tucker Malone is a scrappy kid whose mother, Gina, is a stripper/escort and a narcoleptic with a dangerous habit of dropping asleep at any moment. After they make their way to Niagara Falls, Gina has an episode and is struck by a car and severely injured. Tucker is exiled to Bright Light, a group home for troubled teens. His only friend there is Meredith, a pregnant teen escort. “We were a strange match as far as friends go, but magnets don’t need to understand how magnetism works; they just repel each other or stick together,” Tucker tells us. But it’s a dark time. Meredith quickly finds out she’s too far along for an abortion, and Tucker witnesses a fatal stabbing. While all this is going on—and for pretty much no reason at all—Tucker is convinced that his father is the character Sam Malone from the sitcom Cheers. So he and Meredith run away in a stolen car looking for his father. What follows is a cross-country drama during which Tucker and Meredith encounter the best and worst that America has to offer. After a disappointing excursion to Boston to visit the real-life counterpart of the Cheers pub, the unlikely duo make their way to Los Angeles by hitchhiking, traveling with a gun nut, a drag queen, and other motley characters. The book culminates with Tucker and Meredith entrenched in the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Suffice it to say that something terrible happens.
A very readable if dismal roadside adventure that could have some appeal for Gen X readers or youngsters exploring a pre-digital era.