Title: 100 Sideways Miles
Author: Andrew Smith
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary Fiction
Synopsis: Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.
Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.
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Andrew Smith’s writing is… interesting, to say the least. This is the second book I’ve read of his – the first being Winger, which I really enjoyed. I was expecting to like this just as much, if not more, but I was a little let down, mainly because it was so different from Winger. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have believed that this was by the same author. Apart from the similar crude language, it was a completely different feel. So before I jump into this review, I would say that if you didn’t like Winger, you should probably still give this a go because of how different it is.
“If you really want to imagine something, try imagining what it would be like to empty every word from your head and then look at the universe. You’ll see nothing at all that you could ever understand. There will be no separation or distinction between object, color, temperature, or sound; there will be neither borders nor edges, no limits or size, and you will smell things and not have any idea at all what is happening.”
The main thing this book lacked was plot. Nothing really happened, and that’s why I can’t possibly explain what this book is about. An epileptic boy? Epilepsy didn’t play a big part. Romance? The romance wasn’t well-developed. Friendship? Not really.
For the most part, I felt like I was reading a snapshot of a kid’s life, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as that snapshot contains something interesting or different from said kid’s ordinary life. But no. The only remotely exciting thing that happens is the introduction of the girl, and even that was of no significant consequence considering how things go down afterwards. The twist at the end (if it can be called a twist – perhaps ‘climax’ would be a better word) came out of nowhere, and it felt disjointed from the tone of the rest of the novel.
For a significant portion of the book, I was strongly reminded of the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Two teenagers lazying around in an empty house, doing nothing except drinking and speaking. That part was my least favorite in the Goldfinch, so it’s only natural that I wasn’t too psyched about it in this one.
Smith is good at characterization. He develops a very strong voice for his protagonists, and even the supporting characters have a three-dimensional feel. I appreciate Smith’s use of an epileptic main character, because you don’t see that often. But I feel like he could have utilized Finn’s epilepsy a lot more than he did. Like I said, it felt like a snapshot and nothing significant happened, so you wouldn’t expect the epilepsy to play a big role. But I really wish it had.
Cade Hernandez is Finn’s charismatic, ‘hilarious’ best friend. That’s how he’s described. I didn’t find him charming or hilarious and I wouldn’t much like him as a person in real life, but he was very well-developed. He was super interesting, and even though I thought he was disrespectful and insensitive and perverted, he was still interesting.
Julia was… forgettable. I wasn’t invested in her and Finn’s relationship. There was some insta-love going on there, so she didn’t do much for me.
Andrew Smith is a talented, skilled writer. He has tremendous command over his language. His use of symbolism and his quirk in writing gives his novels and stories another dimension – whether you like this extra dimension is entirely up to you, but it exists. I appreciate how he can conjure up such different works; it shows that he has what it takes to be versatile. His dialogue is so wonderful and realistic. It’s such a shame when you don’t like a book by an otherwise great author.