This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.
I can't remember if I first heard of Lean on Pete at BookExpo America (BEA) in May or whether the book came to my attention later in the summer. Regardless, once I was aware of the premise of Willy Vlautin's newest novel, I knew I had to read it.
Fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson wants a home, food on the table, and a high school he can attend for more than part of a year. But as the son of a single father working in warehouses across the Pacific Northwest, Charley's been pretty much on his own. When tragic events leave him homeless weeks after their move to Portland, Oregon, Charley seeks refuge in the tack room of a run-down horse track. Charley's only comforts are his friendship with a failing racehorse named Lean on Pete and a photograph of his only known relative. In an increasingly desperate circumstance, Charley will head east, hoping to find his aunt who had once lived a thousand miles away in Wyoming—but the journey to find her will be a perilous one.Yes, it sounds like a difficult subject. And it's made more difficult because the story takes place in modern times. When every other teenager is worried about having the latest netbook or begging for unlimited texting on his or her cell phone, Charley is simply trying to stay alive and to find a home with his aunt. It's important to step back from our connected, high-tech lives and remember that not everyone is as lucky as we are.
In Vlautin's third novel, Lean on Pete, he reveals the lives and choices of American youth like Charley Thompson who were failed by those meant to protect them and who were never allowed the chance to just be a kid.
Here's a sampling of some reviews:
- From the Oregonian's website: "Vlautin writes about Charley's search to find a place in the world in vivid, plainspoken, no razzmatazz detail, and spins a story about an orphaned boy and a broken racehorse and a harrowing but beautiful journey that's impossible to forget."
- From Darren's blog Bart's Bookshelf: "I may be painting a picture of a horribly bleak read, but really it’s anything but, and that is down to Charley’s voice. Vlautin has managed to capture a teenage voice just right."
- From the Village Books blog: "This is a rare book because of its raw truth, its candour. It is a telling odyssey that stabs you in the heart and makes you consider every casual crime of neglect and cruelty ever committed against a child or an animal."
Lean on Pete was an Indie Next pick for May 2010. For more about Willy Vlauntin, visit his website.
This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. See the alphabetized review index to see what others are saying. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.