Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****The Last Chance Texaco

by Brent Hartinger

Reviewed March 21, 2004.
HarperTempest (HarperCollins), New York, 2004.  228 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #4, Young Adult Contemporary Novels

I thought I’d read a chapter or two of this book before I went to bed.  A couple of hours later, the clock said midnight, and I said, “What a great book!”

Lucy Pitt has been in and out of foster homes and now in and out of group homes.  Everyone knows that if you get kicked out of Kindle House, you’ll be sent to “Eat-Their-Young Island.”  That’s why Kindle House is also known as “the Last Chance Texaco.”

However, Lucy soon finds that Kindle House is different.  It doesn’t even look like your usual group home, since it was once a rich person’s mansion.  The trouble is, it’s still located in a rich neighborhood, and the rich kids at the high school quickly show that they don’t want group home kids at their school.

Lucy finds more than one person against her, and pretty soon she’s down to her last chance at the Last Chance Texaco.  Meanwhile, their funding is in danger, and the neighborhood wants the place closed.  Could it be that Lucy has found more than one person who truly cares about her?  She’s willing to use up her last chance if it might save Kindle House from closing.

Once again, Brent Hartinger, author of Geography Club, has created a character from a group we often forget about and given us a walk in her shoes.  This book has brilliant writing and suspenseful plotting.  We quickly care about Lucy and want her to get a break for a change.  We agonize with her as she learns to care and then must risk everything to save what she cares about.

I had a friend who worked in a group home for awhile (Jody, you’ve got to read this book!), or I might never even have known that they exist.  Brent Hartinger opens your eyes to the situation of many kids in America, while telling a great story at the same time.

This one does have some mild swearing right from the start.  I wouldn’t have really believed these were group home kids if it didn’t.  Other than that, there’s nothing here that parents would find objectionable.  I highly recommend it as a book that will give you or your teens empathy for someone in a tough situation.

Reviews of other books by Brent Hartinger:
Project Sweet Life
Geography Club

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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