by Robert Lipsyte
(YP FIC LIPSYTE)
Kyle is focused on his music. He loves the quintet he plays in. He especially likes the French Horn player, Nicole from New York. With his mother's help he has avoided getting pulled into the family business of professional race car driving. Racing is his brother's business. All of Kyle's goals and dreams are clear and focused.
Everything changes when his older brother gets hurt. Kyle agrees to race for a couple of weeks--to keep Kris's seat warm. For Kyle, things quickly get a whole lot more confusing. His family seems to be making plans for him. Plus, Kyle can't stop thinking about Jimmie, the new girl on the racing crew. Even more confusing, Kyle begins to question whether he really dislikes racing at all. Does he want Kris to get better? When an amazing opportunity opens up for Kyle's band and his band mates demand more of his time, the pressure begins to squeeze in from all sides.
The family dynamic is interesting in this novel. Kyle constantly worries about being forced to race just like his father and perhaps even his grandfather before him. But the author completely skipped over my main question: Can anyone who doesn't really want it, be truly successful in a sport as competitive as racing? Kyle is a talented guy, gifted even, both in music and racing. While his brother, Kris, seems to be a very intuitive driver, Kyle thinks things out first. He makes all of his decisions like a chess player. The strategies and his analysis of the other racers are interesting--especially when he is faced with racing bullies. His talents come so easily and naturally to him that what Kyle really fights for and works for in this story is the freedom to choose his own future.
This peak into the life and technicalities of race car driving was really interesting. Despite a complete lack of mechanical understanding, I followed the story just fine. While the ending resolved several plot points, it lacked force. So I'm waiting for a sequel, both because I want the story to continue and because I'm waiting for a more complete ending.
FYI: Another book by Lipsyte, Raider's Night (YP FIC LIPSYTE), made it onto the 2008-2009 Tayshas list. It's about a football player who must choose to join in his team's out-of-game behavior or stand alone and risk losing out on his football dreams.