HERRNDORF, Wolfgang Why We Took The Car Scribe, 2014 245pp $19.95 pbk ISBN 9781922070791 SCIS 1634253
Mike Klingenberg is unremarkable, a kid that no-one notices, passing way under the radar of his classmates. Even Tschick, the new Russian student, gets more attention but only because his drunkenness and strange behaviour make him an instant pariah. Mike finds himself unexpectedly abandoned in the holidays as his mother heads off for more rehab, his father takes an extended work-trip with his young colleague, and Mike isn’t invited (unlike nearly everyone else) to Tatiana’s birthday party. The other student to be so carelessly forgotten is Tschick who arrives at Mike’s house in a borrowed car and with intent to drive to Wallachia despite not having a licence. They take off, leaving their worlds behind, and drive towards adventure. Tschick drives like a legend but they settle into a rhythm until they are shot at, pursued by police, and crash down an embankment.
Translated from German for an English-speaking audience, this novel’s universal theme of self-discovery makes it readily accessible to readers of YA literature. The classic road trip gains new momentum, as the boys aren’t really going anywhere except deeper into trouble. The fore-shadowed car accident which leaves Mike sitting bleeding at the police station is, literally, the end of the road. Although Mike returns to school as normal, nothing is really the same as he now has a life-long friend in Tschick and has glimpsed how exciting life can be. Recommended.
reviewed by Pam Harvey