PAY IT FORWARD by Catherine Ryan Hyde

PAY IT FORWARD

KIRKUS REVIEW

The buzz is big for this heartwarming, funny, and bittersweet story from Hyde (Funerals for Horses, not reviewed) about a teenager’s plan to better the world. It all starts with a man and a boy. The man, Reuben St. Clair, a social-studies teacher who believes in positive thinking but who’s also a badly disfigured, black Vietnam vet struggling daily with the way people look at him, assigns the following for extra credit: “Think of an idea for world change, and put it into action.” The boy, Trevor McKinney, takes the assignment to heart, not only because his mother, Arlene, is battling with alcohol and his father’s gone missing, but also because he likes Reuben and begins to think maybe his mom would too. Trevor develops a pyramid payback scheme of good deeds, with the flow of payment reversed, and starts by finding three people he believes he can help, each of whom pledges to help three others. The first, a homeless addict/mechanic, receives Trevor’s paper-route earnings and a place to shower before a job interview, but then blows his first paycheck on cocaine and ends up in jail. The second, an elderly woman on the paper route, receives all the yard- and garden-work she needs for free, but later dies in her sleep. The third, Reuben and Arlene considered together as a dysfunctional unit, are brought together by Trevor so they can help each other out of loneliness and just maybe give him a dad in the bargain, but they mix like oil and water. Apparently negative results prove to be just the opposite, however, and, unbeknownst to Trevor, his project snowballs into a national phenomenon with no end in sight. Invited to Washington to be honored by President Clinton, Trevor decides to do one more good deed, a selfless act that again succeeds beyond his wildest expectations. A quiet, steady masterpiece, with an incandescent ending. (Film rights to Warner Bros.; Book-of-the-Month featured alternate/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; $250,00 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-86271-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1999




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