From Goodreads: Dane Washington is one suspension away from expulsion. In a high school full of “haves,” being a “have not” makes Dane feel like life is hurtling toward one big dead end. Billy D. spends his high school days in Special Ed and he’s not exactly a “have” himself. The biggest thing Billy’s missing? His dad. Billy is sure the riddles his father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him again and through a bizarre turn of events, he talks Dane into joining him on the search.
A bully and a boy with Down syndrome makes for an unlikely friendship, but together, they work through the clues, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn’t have been keeping.
This is the story of an unlikely relationship that blooms from a bargain. Dane is a hothead loner from the wrong side of the tracks that hates the world. Billy has down syndrome and just wants to find his father and learn to protect himself. Together, through clues left in an atlas, they begin to decipher the mystery that is Billy’s world, and they end up on some wild adventures, some of which seemed a little far-fetched to me, but then again, I was never the adventurous rebellious type, so I have limited experience when it comes to the run ins these two find themselves in. Honestly, this is a very intriguing story, but I never really connected with either of the characters.
I have to admit I was very intrigued by Billy’s cunning, though. I liked that very much and I feel that Lange works to dispel a lot of stereotypical thoughts through his character, which is great. I also liked the mystery surrounding the atlas, though the final revelation was somewhat disheartening. Of course, novels with their happy endings aren’t the norm in real life, as it were, and I feel like Lange is actually presenting a very real look at life in presenting the truth about Billy’s father. It’s a little jarring, but one that many readers will probably figure out relatively quickly based on the foreshadowing, but it’s not real for the reader until the final blowout and Billy’s admittance.
Overall, this is a coming of age story, though, in the end, nothing is really resolved, leaving readers with just a small glimmer of hope. I was also left with some questions concerning legalities within the novel, but overall it was a good, clean read. Three stars.
Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on September 3, 2013.