Monday March 1, 2010
by Ryan Potter
March 1, 2010
Who are you supposed to look up to when it seems like every adult you know is more screwed up than yourself?
Looming above Zach Ramsey's hometown are the smokestacks of the truck assembly plant, the greasy lifeblood of this Detroit suburb. Surrounded by drunks, broken marriages, and factory rats living in fear of the pink slip, Zach is getting out of Blaine after graduation. But first, he's going to enjoy the summer before his senior year.
And Zach's having a blast until he uncovers dark secrets that shake his faith in everyone, including his best friend Tank (a state wrestling champion), whose 'roid rages betray a shocking habit. Falling in love with Tank's twin sister Sarah, an Ivy League-bound scholar, doesn't exactly make Zach's life any easier.
Eventually, with enough evidence to nail the town's steroid kingpin, Zach is faced with the toughest decision of his life—one that will prove just what kind of adult he's destined to be.
Stuck in Blaine, Michigan a small suburb of Detroit, Zach is desperate to leave after his senior year, hoping to avoid the fate of his parents, who have lived and worked there their whole lives. In the meantime, he becomes determined to expose his football coach, who he suspects is supplying steroids to athletes, and his best friend Tank's father, an undercover cop who he thinks is mistreating his children and having an affair with a married woman.
Zach is also a little bit stressed out about his brother's seeming lack of motivation to get out Blaine and is more than a little curious about why his talented and athletic brother quit the football team his senior year...another mystery to solve.
When Zach is forced to get a summer job he ends up working at the local "beverage" store across from the assembly plant, the box boy who had the job before him lets him in on a few secrets about the job. Will this job take him down the road to responsibility or just be another example of lame adults who once again fail to live up to Zach's righteous view of "adult behavior"?
It occurred to me while reading this book that there are a lot of teens out there that are in a very similar situation to Zach. With the economy the way it is and the slow death of industrial jobs there are a lot of "dead end" towns out there with kids hoping to escape the same fate as their parents.
Zach is a very realistic character...flawed but likable and struggling to figure out who he is and the path he wants to take in life. I predict a lot of boys who read this book will see themselves in Zach and the obstacles and questions he is facing.
I think this is a great story and the writing flowed nicely. There are a few sub-plots in the story like Zach's realization that he is in love with his best friends sister. At first I really wished that these were played out and developed a bit more but I came to the conclusion that this book isn't a love story, or about any other people in Zach's life...Exit Strategy is a definitive coming-of-age story with the main focus being Zach and the person he is becoming.
I KNOW this book will be popular here in my library...it has all the stuff boys like to read about (at least from my experience as a middle school librarian)...sports, girls and the choices boys have to make when it comes to sex, drugs, alcohol and friends.
References to the above topics and a few cuss words make this book appropriate for ages 14 and up.
Visit the books website here: www.ExitStrategy17.com
Review copy sent by publisher and donated to school library.