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Monday, May 10, 2010

'Derailed' by Jon RIPSLINGER

From the BLURB:

Wendell “Stony” Stoneking is not one to worry. Everyone likes him. His girlfriend is gorgeous and very willing to please—anytime, anywhere. He is the star of his high school football team. And when he graduates, there’s a steady job in the gravel quarry waiting for him. Then he meets Robyn, a single mom with a dark past. Suddenly Stony is more bothered than he has been in a long time—not only by the violence Robyn has endured, but by the danger she could put him in. For the first time, Stony reflects on his own life, his broken family, and the dizzying notion of a wide-open future.

Initially I plowed through this book - I was halfway through it after only forty minutes. The writing isn’t anything special, and the characters are quite wooden. But for some reason I was suckered into the story.

When we meet Stony he has a lot hanging in the balance – his grades need to pick up or he’ll be kicked off the football team. So his school organizes a student tutor for him, Robyn Knight. Pretty early on Stony gets a personality overhaul – maybe a little too early, because there isn’t enough before/after distinction between Stony before he meets Robyn and Stony once he decides to turn his life around. Therefore characterization is pretty non-existent.

I really liked the plot of a jock falling for a teenage single mum. But the romance happens a little too quickly and with little chemistry backing it up. Stony justifies his interest in Robyn and her young son because the boy, Logan, reminds Stony of his younger brother who died two years ago. But that really isn’t enough for me to believe that an 18-year-old footballer would rather hang out with a six year old and his mother instead of going to a house party.

About halfway through Ripslinger starts writing ‘paint by numbers’ for YA’s. The story predictably becomes a cautionary, contrite tale warning against teenage pregnancy, drug use and a plethora of other typical adolescent recklessness. No surprise that at the back of the book there are discussion questions. Yawn. It was pretty amazing how quickly a promising storyline that could have been a very in-your-face YA novel turned into a tame conversational piece, the likes of which a high school guidance counselor might make assigned reading.


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