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Review of 100 Sideways Miles

smith_100 sideways miles100 Sideways Miles
by Andrew Smith
High School    Simon    277 pp.
9/14    978-1-4424-4495-9    $17.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-4497-3    $10.99

High schooler Finn Easton has unusual scars on his back. Finn’s “emoticons” — so-called because they look like a colon, vertical slash, colon — are the result of a freak accident in which a dead horse fell from an overpass, killing his mother and crushing Finn. Besides the scars, Finn still experiences periodic “blank-outs,” or epileptic episodes. But he has a pretty good life otherwise: his novelist father loves him; his best friend, sex-obsessed Cade Hernandez, makes him laugh; and he has recently met Julia, the girl of his dreams. Yet he feels stuck in his father’s cult-classic sci-fi novel; after all, it was Finn’s scars that gave his father the idea for the book, and one of the main characters is named Finn. After Julia moves away, the crestfallen Finn embarks on a college visit with Cade, a trip that turns the boys into heroes. Finn has a funny, fluid narrative voice, and his banter with Cade is excellent — and often hilariously vulgar (Cade regularly notes the way Finn’s scars resemble something sexual; for example: “What flounders look like when they fuck”). If Finn is overly quirky — his way of thinking in distances rather than time is made a bit much of — Smith can be forgiven because his writing is so striking overall. Finn’s first kiss with Julia is “a flooding exodus of everything uncontained, all those nouns, articles, verbs, emptying me completely.” An unusual and memorable novel.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sam Bloom

Sam Bloom is a former elementary and middle school teacher. He is currently senior children's librarian at the Blue Ash branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio.

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