An action-packed debut YA novel about a teenage girl who dreams of becoming a professional dirt-bike racer.
Sixteen-year-old Clover Kassedy has been forced to move with her family from her hometown in Canada to Denver, and she struggles to find a place for herself in her new community. The local kids taunt her about her dirt-bike racing hobby, her tomboyishness and her Canadian heritage. Meanwhile, her father pressures her too hard to win races, and her mother fails to show any interest in her hobby at all, instead favoring Clover’s younger sister. It’s no surprise when Clover falls in with a rough crowd, as she’s delighted to finally find people who accept her. Unfortunately, she lets her new “friends” get the best of her, following them to wild parties, experimenting with sex and alcohol, and shirking her academic responsibilities. It’s not long before she realizes that she must either get her life back in gear or permanently relinquish her dream of racing professionally. Over the course of the story, Clover confronts many complicated issues facing teenagers; for example, she watches one friend battle bulimia and another deal with being abandoned by his mother. She also struggles with questions relating to friendship, honesty, perseverance, romance and despair. Hutton provides many heart-pounding, play-by-play descriptions of Clover’s races (“She slammed on both brakes and held her breath, keeping her elbows in, as if that would help her sneak through the tight space”). She also includes intriguing information about international bike racing and the difficulties young women face trying to break into the sport. Like the dirt bikes she describes, Hutton’s absorbing narrative moves at a fast clip. At times, the narration uses too many Australian idioms, which may make it difficult for readers to believe that Clover is growing up in America rather than Hutton’s native Australia; measurements are in meters rather than feet, and the Colorado teenagers are forever promising to “ring” each other. Despite such narrative hiccups, however, the book offers an insightful look into the life of a teenager with a talent.
A coming-of-age tale that’s perfect for sophisticated teenagers with an interest in sports.