Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Review: Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

I love road trip stories. The physical journey works as an excellent metaphor for a character's personal journey, and usually involves some sort of wacky hijinks (why doesn't Chrome think hijinks is a word?).

Ostrich BoysSim, Kenny, Blake and Ross have been best friends for ages, until suddenly Ross dies in an accident - his bike was hit by a car. The three boys are angry and sad - especially after sitting through the impersonal funeral at the church - and decide the best sendoff for Ross would be to take him to the town of Ross in Scotland, where he'd always wanted to visit but had never quite managed.

The road trip is off to a bad start before it even begins when Blake fumbles the kidnapping of Ross' ashes. Then Kenny loses his train ticket, and all of the extra cash. It never gets much better as one misfortune after the other befalls the boys. But bound by their friendship they refuse to give up their quest.

Over the course of two days, we really see the boys growing up and coming to terms with what their friend's death means to each of them. All three boys, as well as the various people they meet on their journey, are very distinct. Sim was the hardest to read about for me - that boy has a lot of anger, and acts like the arbiter of what makes a good friend. For example, throughout the novel he harps on Kenny for not helping Ross with a computer problem the day he died, which just feels ridiculous, since how was Kenny supposed to know what was going to happen? But it's an early clue into Sim's overall disposition. Blake is a sage narrator and loyal friend. I really enjoyed being in his head for the duration of this novel, that felt a lot shorter than 300 pages.

And the ending is the type that I love most: while there's a solid conclusion to the road trip, there are no easy, final answers given. It's clear that while this particular story has finished, the boys are going to go on to have other adventures. It's the most realistic sort of ending their is, which is always the most satisfying for me.
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