Why We Took the Car
by Wolfgang Herrndorf; trans. from the German by Tim Mohr
Middle School, High School Levine/Scholastic 250 pp.
1/14 978-0-545-48180-9 $17.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-58636-8 $17.99
Two teens abandon their lackluster lives and hit the Autobahn in this audacious tragicomedy. Mike Klingenberg, boring and unpopular, lives a life of quiet desperation at his Berlin junior high. New kid Tschick comes to class drunk and might be in the Russian mafia; he’s not winning friends, but at least everyone’s paying attention. So when Tschick rolls up to Mike’s house in a hotwired car and proposes a road trip without a map, destination, or driver’s license, Mike says yes. Although the telling begins at its ignominious end, their story is, in many ways, a traditional road trip: the characters ponder their existence and gain independence while mastering the stick shift, evading local police, and encountering a collection of increasingly weird locals. Mike’s narration is an anxious stream of wry humor and linked anecdotes, but the moments when his façade slips are abrupt and startling windows into the pain of social exclusion and the aching loneliness of being fourteen. A sharp coming-of-age journey, hilarious and heartrending in equal measure.
From the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.