Title: Going Places
Author: Kathryn Berla
Release Date: March 20th, 2018
Book Provided by: NetGalley
Hudson Wheeler is a teen for whom everyone had high expectations, but since his father was killed when he was ten, he's felt unmotivated to pursue much other than his art. During his senior year, he decides to home school, thinking he will get to relax and focus on his two lazy businesses. But instead, he experiences love and rejection for the first time; meets an athletic girl who shows him by example what it means to be a man; and solves the painful mystery of the WWII vet whose poignant plight forces Hudson out of the comfort zone of boyhood.
This book was hit or miss for me. Following Hudson Wheeler as he navigates an unorthadox senior year of high school several different plots weave together to give us a whole picture of Hudson's life. The book started off really strong, and thankfully ended really strong, but lost me a bit in the middle. In thinking about why, I think it's mostly because I really, really didn't like the object of Hudson's affection, Alana Love, and I don't think the author gave Alana enough redeeming qualities to justify Hudson's devotion. So, for the purposes of this recap, I'm going to pretend for a moment that Alana is a non-factor (I'll come back to her in a minute) and instead lead with all the good, and there was a lot of good.
Hudson is a great main player. He's a kid on the verge of figuring out who he is and he's doing his level best to find that sweet balance between work and life. It's almost like he's trying to fulfill that quote "Choose a job that you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life", but isn't quite sure how to do that. He starts by convincing his mom that he should home school, striking a deal that he'll attend class two times a day (Yoga and Art) and then work and home school the rest of the day. This works out amazingly well and we quickly see Hudson finding his groove with his two small businesses, dog walking and helping local Senior Citizen's with minor emergencies. The start of the story as we see Hudson getting himself set up is spot on, we get some background on Hudson and get to meet the secondary players including Mr. Pirkle and Fritzy who both factor heavily into helping Hudson figure out what his next steps will be. Without giving too much away, throughout the story Fritzy helps Hudson come out of his shell a bit, and Mr. Pirkle deals Hudson some difficult cards that help Hudson both find some purpose and process some old feelings about his own father's death. The end of the book finds Hudson and Fritzy uncovering a surprise mystery (a really well plotted out twist), helping Mr. Pirkle and Hudson making some big decisions about his future. I felt like this whole arc, of Hudson figuring out who he is, was really well done. Seeing him struggle to figure out what kind of a person he wants to be, and what kind of a writer he wants to be, is great. Not for nothing, but I would love to read the fictitious Ghosts of War graphic novel he ends up writing in the book.
Now for Alana. She's awful. Truly. She uses Hudson every step of the way and Hudson just goes along with it. To the point where they even hook up and he acknowledges that it was probably just an audition to Alana, a chance to make sure that he's not totally gross and that they could travel together after high school and occasionally hook up without totally grossing her out. She constantly ditches Hudson for her actual boy friend, but tugs him back in whenever she feels like it or needs the attention. She is constantly cutting Fritzy down with comments about her height, and she does it for no other reason then because she can. She uses Hudson like a toy to show off, and then ignores him when he's not useful anymore. And she does this all while knowing that Hudson is head over heels for her. She's legit horrible. I know the argument here is that high school boys are basically a bundle of hormones with no common sense at all, but throughout the rest of the book Hudson is presented as a smart, thoughtful guy, it's even pretty obvious that he knows that Alana sucks, but loves her anyways. Any time he interacted with her I just wanted to skip past that section. For me, I wish that Alana had some redeeming qualities that made it make sense for Hudson to keep holding on to the "what if" of a relationship with Alana. Her character was really the only weak part of an otherwise really well written book.
So, bottom line. This was a good book. It was a relatively short and easy read and I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship between both Hudson and Fritzy and Hudson and Mr. Pirkle. It was great to see a kid like Hudson be able to open up and find common ground with people that you wouldn't expect. I look forward to grabbing a few more of Berla's books soon.