Why We Took the Car, by Wolfgang Herrndorf (2010, 2014)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Level: 12-17
Why We Took the CarMike Klingenberg is facing the start of summer vacation completely on his own. His mother is, once again, in rehab – what she calls “the beauty farm.” As the cab takes her way, Dad hands Mike 200 euros, tells him not to get into any trouble, and hops into the car for a “business trip” with his hot young assistant, leaving Mike alone at home in Berlin. There is little chance of any mischief – Mike has just been dealt a crushing blow to his ego. Tatiana is the love of his life but doesn’t know he exists. She is throwing a party and invited practically the whole class, but not Mike, and not their newest classmate, Andrej Tschichatschow. Tschick convinces Mike to do something about the overlooked invitations. They steal a car, deliver Tatiana’s present, and then hit the road, without map or compass, or a clear idea of which way is south. Did I mention they are 14? Eloquently translated from the German original by Tim Mohr, this delightful coming-of-age novel strikes just the right notes as we travel with the boys through the German countryside, learning to drive, stealing food, meeting a girl and a Communist, avoiding gunfire and the police until it all comes to a crashing halt on the autobahn. Lots of fun, with moments both touching and comical, while painfully honest at times. A sample: “I thought for a few minutes about what it would be like to be gay. It could really have been the solution to all my problems.” Complete with a satisfying conclusion that leaves just the right amount of loose ends, as Mike comes to the realization that an alcoholic for a mother isn’t the worst thing in the world.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17270509

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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