Published January 7tth, 2014
A beautifully written, darkly funny coming-of-age story from an award-winning, bestselling German author making his American debut.I'm not sure what I was expecting from Why We Took The Car, but it sure was a surprising read. The story starts off hard and fast, with our main character, 14 year old Mike, being interrogated by the police. He's clearly badly injured and immediately tons of questions popped into my mind. Why is he hurt? How badly? What is such a young kid doing at the police station? What the heck did he do to land himself in such a serious situation?!
Mike Klingenberg doesn't get why people think he's boring. Sure, he doesn't have many friends. (Okay, zero friends.) And everyone laughs at him when he reads his essays out loud in class. And he's never invited to parties - including the gorgeous Tatiana's party of the year.
Andre Tschichatschow, aka Tschick (not even the teachers can pronounce his name), is new in school, and a whole different kind of unpopular. He always looks like he's just been in a fight, his clothes are tragic, and he never talks to anyone.
But one day Tschick shows up at Mike's house out of the blue. Turns out he wasn't invited to Tatiana's party either, and he's ready to do something about it. Forget the popular kids: Together, Mike and Tschick are heading out on a road trip. No parents, no map, no destination. Will they get hopelessly lost in the middle of nowhere? Probably. Will they meet crazy people and get into serious trouble? Definitely. But will they ever be called boring again?
Not a chance.
Sadly, my questions weren't answered for quite some time.. and I think that was the big beef I had with this book. I don't tend to be the most patient person, and I was a little ticked off and quite confused when the story shifted to a completely different area of this kids life. We're lead on to see how his life was before, for much of his childhood. We get probably over a third through the story before we even get a hint of what started this journey, why he and Tshick stole a car and how they wound up at the police station and eventually the hospital.
Once we finally get the ball moving, Why We Took The Car was a fairly decent coming of age story. The writing style was simple and pleasant, and you could really tell that it was told from the point of view of a young teenage boy. Many of the things.. ok.. pretty much everything, Mike did was pretty stupid, but hey, that's how a lot of youngsters are, eh? It was a bit weird that he just went along with what Tshick said without much questioning, but I decided not to be bothered by that. Instead, I let myself be swept along with them on their road trip across Germany.
Things moved pretty fast in the second half of the book, the two boys always on the run from any cops they caught a glimpse of. Some pretty strange stuff ended up going down, some of which wasn't all that believable, but still.. awesomely strange things always happen in road trip stories. Though lots of self reflection happened on the part of Mike, I didn't witness too much character growth, which disappointed me a bit. After all the reflecting her had done, I was hoping for him to think more highly of himself. Even at the end of the book he was hung up on how "boring" he was. Judging by his recent trip, I'd say he was anything but boring.
Though not a favorite of mine, Why We Took the Car was still an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. If you're looking for a crazy story full of thrills and silliness, sit down with this one and be prepared for something truly unique.