RAY VS THE MEANING OF LIFE by Michael F. Stewart
Kirkus Star


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A teenager will inherit an RV park if he figures out the meaning of life in this YA novel.

In her will, Raymond Saintbury’s grandmother says he has one month to discover life’s meaning or she’ll give her RV park to his mother and uncle. A dazzling opening sequence describes the domino effect of Grandma’s death—all the ways she didn’t die before she actually did—and ends with her cryogenically frozen brain on display in the middle of her creation, Sunny Days RV Park. Dalen Anders, the celebrity self-help guru she hired to help Ray with his quest, offers him neither magic bullets nor magic beans. Ray’s transformation from a video game addict to an RV park owner and operator will take old-fashioned hard work: flipping burgers, cleaning out the pool, and scrubbing bathroom floors. Meanwhile, Ray’s mother and sister, who resent their treatment in the will, are hoping he fails. But Ray soon realizes that he is not the only person in the park with problems. Salminder, who runs the burger truck where Ray works, is battling cancer. Ray has been trying to win over Salminder’s daughter, Tina, for ages, but now he sees that helping her cope with her father’s illness is more important than trying to impress her with his gaming skills. Stewart (The Boy Who Swallows Flies, 2018, etc.) presents readers with a dynamite coming-of-age story. Backwoods without calling anyone backward, the author’s offbeat humor keeps the heavy subjects of death and poverty from becoming maudlin or bleak, as when Grandma’s body has to camp out in Ray’s trailer for a few days before the undertaker can get to her neck of the woods. Booby-trapped with guns, grizzly bears, and homemade fireworks, the cartoonish park setting skillfully gives wheels to a larger, more intriguing philosophical question. Salminder, a devout Sikh, asks Ray, “If it doesn’t matter who you are, how rich you are, where you are or what you’re doing, then why can’t you find your meaning of life here in this very RV park?”

A tale spins its answer to an age-old question into an inclusive, hilarious, and thought-provoking yarn.

Pub Date: May 15th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-989133-00-2
Page count: 275pp
Publisher: The Publishing House
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2018


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