The inherent nature of a used bookstore lends itself to the fact that the books are not, in all likelihood, new. However, I’m rather punchy to say that I’ve been given the opportunity to review Tawni Water’s forthcoming young adult novel The Long Ride Home due out September 5th from Sourcebooks. Tawni (yes, we’re on a first name basis) advised me on my novel manuscript two years ago, and a professional relationship rife with literary blessings has developed from it. I consider promoting her new book to be an honor and the very smallest of compensations.
Harley is a do-it-yourself, screw the world, biker chick (and Shakespeare aficionado) who despite her tough, outer-crust is daily decimated after the death of her mother. Opting for some closure, Harley, accompanied by her sort-of-boyfriend, Dean, decide to drive across the country on her motorcycle to scatter her mother’s ashes. On the way, they meet the normally-abnormal cast of eccentric characters that a transcontinental road trip can’t help produce for better or worse. Bigger than that—spoiler alert (but not really)—Harley is also pregnant. The journey to come to terms with her mother’s death takes on a whole new meaning since Harley will soon be a mother herself—or will she?
I think what defines Tawni Water’s novels is that they mirror reality. It’s been said that art imitates life and The Long Ride Home points to a dilemma that so many, especially young women, are dealing with right now. I’m not a woman, so obviously I don’t know the precise emotions associated with pregnancy and childbirth. But as a father, I get at least a glimpse of the immense burdens involved. Alternatively, I laud Tawni (and Harley) for acknowledging the equally immense joy that comes even from an unexpected (unwanted) pregnancy.
As the young adult genre has boomed, it’s important to understand that “YA” doesn’t mean diluted content. Young Adult fiction is intended to challenge its readers with language and awareness of their world. Although The Long Ride Home is clean, poetic “neighbors fight, staining the air with verbal graffiti,” and straight forward, it is also crammed with heart-tearing conflict, brutal honesty, and endlessly complicated questions: Where is Home? What is Home? And even, who is Home? The answers to these questions don’t remain static for very long. So don’t think, teenagers, that you can sleep through your Shakespeare class and go home to read some easy-peasy junk food. Because this isn’t that.
And here’s a link to Barnes and Noble’s website if you have any pre-order interest!