A teenage boy with attention issues tries to escape his small town in Washington by stealing and crashing small planes from local airfields.
Readers meet 18-year-old Robert Jackson Kelley on his final flight, after he’s stolen, flown, and crash-landed a series of planes in the small vacation town of Yannatok before being apprehended by local police and sentenced to 10 years in a maximum security prison. In faux-documentary style, Fenn constructs a thorough if somewhat sluggish chronicle of Robert’s childhood and adolescence, detailing the mental, physical, and societal factors that led to his unusual crime spree. These include ADHD issues, a single working mom who pays scant attention to him, a father in prison, and a spotty school record. That none of these factors is race combines with absence of markers to imply a white default. Robert’s story, based on the real-life exploits of teen plane thief Colton Harris-Moore, is relayed in a crisp, journalistic style, peppered with fictional interviews, talk-show transcripts, and newspaper articles. Though the package promises a pacey thriller, Robert doesn’t crash his first plane until almost 200 pages in, which may cause some readers to give up before the exciting third act, which is rife with police chases, vacation-home burglaries, and, of course, plane crashes.
Too much time on the tarmac, not enough time in the air. (Fiction. 12-18)