Collison’s coming-of-age novel follows three teenagers who leave their homes to try to find themselves and escape less-than-perfect circumstances.
Ramie Redfeather lives with his mother and little brother and longs to find his father, known as Redfeather, a musician who never made it big, though locals recognize him. Trying to catch up with him at a gig in Denver, Ramie hitchhikes from his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyo., and meets Chas Sweeney, a kid from nearby Baltimore whose mother is on life support. In denial about his dysfunctional family back home, Chas stole his grandmother’s Cadillac to drive across the country. In Denver, they meet up with LaRoux, formerly Faith Appleby, who has run away from her strict religious household to perform in a music contest in Austin. All three characters are well-drawn, and though the circumstances that draw them together seem a bit forced, their relationship feels real. They’re three lost kids, geographically and spiritually, yet they’re specific and recognizable types. Ramie is strong, loyal and keeps to himself. Chas is smart and a bit irritating but boundlessly enthusiastic, and despite his confusion about what to do with his life, he has a good heart. LaRoux is beautiful and talented but flighty. Much to the author’s credit, all of them are believably flawed. At times, though, the narrative gets muddled when the three kids’ stories drift into navel-gazing and away from the plot, but Collison’s prose is nonetheless clean and efficient. The resolutions of Ramie’s and LaRoux’s quests are fairly predictable but still well-laid, though Chas’s story turns out to be the more intriguing one, especially in the end.
Doesn’t pack the fireworks, but that’s not where the story lives—it’s in the day-to-day lives of its well-drawn characters and their crises.