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{January 3, 2014}   {ARC Review} Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf

Why We Took the CarFrom Goodreads: A beautifully written, darkly funny coming-of-age story from an award-winning, bestselling German author making his American debut.

Mike Klingenberg doesn’t get why people think he’s boring. Sure, he doesn’t have many friends. (Okay, zero friends.) And everyone laughs at him when he reads his essays out loud in class. And he’s never invited to parties – including the gorgeous Tatiana’s party of the year.

Andre Tschichatschow, aka Tschick (not even the teachers can pronounce his name), is new in school, and a whole different kind of unpopular. He always looks like he’s just been in a fight, his clothes are tragic, and he never talks to anyone.

But one day Tschick shows up at Mike’s house out of the blue. Turns out he wasn’t invited to Tatiana’s party either, and he’s ready to do something about it. Forget the popular kids: Together, Mike and Tschick are heading out on a road trip. No parents, no map, no destination. Will they get hopelessly lost in the middle of nowhere? Probably. Will they meet crazy people and get into serious trouble? Definitely. But will they ever be called boring again?

Not a chance.

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This novel captured my attention from the very first page as we meet our main character, Mike, in an interrogation room.  He is very candid, and gives are overview of his surroundings, complete with the blood that is soaking through his shoes.  When I first read that, I thought to myself that he was being overly dramatic, but readers soon find out that this is not the case, that there is literally blood soaking through his shoes… and then he passes out.  Of course I wanted to know right away how Mike came to be in this situation, where the blood came from, what he had done to be detained by police; the usual questions, and so I began to tear through the pages, enamored by the story.  But, whereas the beginning of the novel definitely has a hook, the middle soon began to lose my attention.

Mike and Andre decide to take a stolen car and just drive, for no real reason aside from boredom, a lack of parental supervision, and the hurt of not being invited to a specific party.  So obviously the next best idea is to drive around in a stolen car, one you barely know how to drive, and to have no real destination in mind aside from leaving the town for a while.  While Mike is a “follow the rules” sort of tween, Andre has been in his fair amount of trouble, coming to school drunk on many an occasion, stealing cars, etc.  The two are not friends by a long shot, but suddenly Mike finds himself hoping into a stolen car joy riding.  Perhaps his father leaving on “business,” his mother’s leaving for rehab, and his lack of an invite to the girl of his dreams party were the final straws for Mike, but for me, it was all somewhat unbelievable.  The adventures the two share as well were a bit on the “I don’t think that’d happen” side, and so I soon began to lose interest in the novel, which is a shame because the beginning really intrigued me.

While the novel does come full circle, starting with the police station, back tracking to the events that lead up to the police station, and then surpassing it, in the end, I just wasn’t impressed with the reason behind Mike’s capture by police, or his antics thereafter in school.  Perhaps it all just a bit too juvenile for me—I do think a MG reader would enjoy this novel straight through, but I definitely felt like it lost a lot of steam as it continued.  Three stars.

3 stars

Scholastic and Arthur A. Levine Books have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on January 7, 2014.

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