Herrndorf, Wolfgang. Why We Took the Car. Scholastic/Arthur Levine 2014 245p $17.99 ISBN 978-0-545-48180-9 hs/adult Realistic fiction VG-BN
Wolfgang Herrndorf has written a book about a German boy that transcends cultural boundaries. Granted, his American readers will have to Google the names of several soccer players referenced in the novel, but other than that, Americans can indeed relate to the plot. Herrndorf’s protagonist, Mike Klingenberg, is the very epitomy of teen angst. He can be mean, but he’s funny! Called “psycho” by his peers, he misses out on much in life because he is the ostracized student in his class. He can’t get an invitation to a party when even the lowest low-life in the class receives one! When Mike teams up with Tschick, a Russian immigrant new to his class, the adventure begins. There is not a reader who will fail to identify with these two young men as they wander around Germany in search of Wallachia, if such a place even exists. Teen readers who want to escape something, anything, will find their escape here. During their journey, Mike is free: free of his overbearing father and his young hottie, free of his alcoholic mother, and free of the constraints of school. He has fun. In addition, Herrndorf’s secondary characters all add something of interest: a random traveler, both quirky and original, drives the injured Tschick to the hospital; runaway Isa makes Mike believe that he is attractive enough to have a relationship; Tschick is a daringly clever side-kick who introduces Mike to freedom from his problems; and Mike’s mother, the alcoholic, comes aboard to help Herrndorf end his book in a way that will “free” the reader from his/her teen problems. The lessons Mike learns along the way are diverse, if sometimes in-your-face obvious, but good for young-adult readers. That being said, Herrndorf’s writing style, as translated by Tim Mohr, is cutting, humorous, engaging and exciting.
There are two editing errors: on page 62, “tell you mother” should be “your”; on page 71, there is an unnecessary period near the bottom of the page in front of “only one.”
Summary: Mike and Tschick team up to escape Berlin in a stolen car, find unimaginable adventures along the way, and finish their journey with a serious accident that has consequences the boys never imagined before taking off.
Adventure-Fiction , Humor-Fiction --Martha Squaresky