• by

High school graduate Brian Hamner wants to have a summer adventure before he gets serious about his future. His plan is to travel south from Minnesota across the United States in a leisurely manner, before eventually ending up in Florida where his aunt and uncle live. Brian hopes for more than just a good time, and his chances of this look good when his parents send him off in a new Volkswagen van; he’s hoping to meet people who, like him, struggle with dysgraphia, a learning disorder that affects one’s ability to write. With Steppenwolf blaring on the radio and various things on his mind, including the Vietnam draft, a high school sweetheart, and the possibility of going to college in the fall, he sets off on a road trip that leads him on a series of adventures. From the get-go, this first-person narrative, which includes a series of journal entries, is riddled with misspelled words, similar to what a dysgraphic writer might write. About graduation night, Brian notes that “Our souperintendent is calling out names” and compares the chair on which he’s sitting to “a piece of pliewould.” This style becomes tedious at times, but it’s used in an intriguing way; it becomes less prevalent as Brian learns strategies to live with the disorder, which gives readers a realistic sense of his experience. As a character, Brian feels a bit emotionally flat, but he has a delightful sense of humor, as when he calls troublesome words that sound alike “homophones or homophonies if they aren’t real werds.” The book is somewhat overloaded with dialogue, but a few of the teachers that the protagonist meets on the road—including a sightless hot dog vendor and a talking raven, whom Brian meets while smoking a “doobee” by the river—deliver some important insights. A classic 1960s rock soundtrack keeps things rolling along, and Whelihan kindly includes a list of these tunes for interested readers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *