Saturday, April 6, 2013

review: take me there

TAKE ME THERE Carolee Dean
Simon Pulse
I started Take Me There with high hopes. Despite the fact that the cover and back-page summary made it seem like an opposites-attract romance, it quickly became clear that this was really the story of a teenage boy determined to turn his life around -- and I liked that theme. Dylan Dawson Jr. is 17 and has already been in juvie, already been involved in a chop shop and associated with a gang. But now he's out of juvie, along with his best friend Wade, and he's determined to go straight. To not wander down the same path his dad -- who's on death row for killing a cop -- went down. But when the gang finds him again they make it difficult for him to stay on the straight and narrow and one night, through no fault of his own, he ends up on the run. From the gang member that's after him and the cops that are probably looking for him. He heads for Texas, where in less than a week his dad will be executed. Dylan has to know if the badness inside of him is something he was born with, something impossible to outrun, or if it's something that can be changed. He has to know the truth of why his dad is facing execution.

(Oh yeah, and also he can barely read. That's important too. Although he loves poetry and has memorized many of them (and even creates his own), actually reading is incredibly difficult for him.)

It's obvious from the first page of this book that Dylan is essentially a good guy. He wants to turn his life around and is doing everything he can to make sure that happens. His romance with the beautiful, rich Jess was alternately incredibly sweet and incredibly unrealistic. But despite what the summary would lead you to believe, his love for Jess is only part of Dylan's story -- more important is the road trip he takes with Wade to see his father again and get answers to his questions. The answers (and even the questions themselves) quickly become more complicated as Dylan realizes that the reason for his father's incarceration isn't nearly as cut-and-dry as he always thought. It's clear, too, that Dylan's dad is a good guy. He is repentant and trying in so many ways to right his wrongs. There are huge themes of repentance, forgiveness, mercy, and justice running through this novel.

Which is why the ending was such a colossal dissapointment. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that up until the novel's conclusion I was for the most part enjoying this novel despite the few issues I had. (Most of my issues up until this point had to do with 1. the quick escalation of Dylan and Jess' relationship in a certain chapter, as well as how unrealistic much of their relationship felt on Jess' side, and 2. how heavy-handed the link between illiteracy and criminal activity often felt.) However, I felt that the book's ending was at odds with the story that came before it, taking the important themes that the book had explored so well and tossing them aside for a possibly-realistic, but definitely discouraging ending.

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