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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cartwheel: a sequel to Double Eagle by Sneed B. Collard III

I tried collecting Bicentennial coins as a sixth-grader for a few months, but was hungry for a Peanut Buster Parfait at Dairy Queen. Goodbye coin collection. That was my only venture into the world of collecting. Unless you count when I helped my friend collect spleens from animals dissected in biology classes. (She is now a doctor.) This mystery involves sixteen-year-old Mike helping his friend, Kyle, rescue his younger sister, Annie, by going on a treasure hunt for a rare coin. If you like coin collecting and machines such as car engines, old cars, or coin presses, then you will enjoy this novel. In fact, I found myself wishing for a brother like Kyle who teaches Annie how to drive a car and know what's under the hood by the time she is thirteen. If I had a Kyle in my life, I wouldn't have tried to put the oil in the tank by going through the dipstick in subzero temperatures. This book is set in 1975 and brought back memories for me of growing up in a time of no cell phones, computers, or hyped up airport security. Collard does a nice job capturing the details and setting of what it was like then while creating a protagonist that must learn to stand up for himself and make decisions. 

Mike is adjusting to his parents divorce and remarriage. He's currently in Florida spending 8 weeks with his dad, stepmom, and new baby brother. During the school year, he lives with his mom and stepdad in California. The changes are stressful enough that when Kyle shows up and invites him on a road trip to rescue his sister from an abusive aunt and uncle in Alabama, Mike jumps at the chance. Along the way they do some drag-racing and lose their money. Mike comes up with a scheme to uncover a priceless silver dollar from 1964 that results in the three collecting silver dollars. They uncover the mystery of the 1964 silver dollar and find some creative ways to make money. When the police become involved, Mike has to decide how far he is willing to help Annie and Kyle.

Mike's overall character arc involves him trying to deal with his anger over his parent's remarrying and turning his life upside down. He runs off with Kyle because he wants to runaway from dealing with a new baby brother. He empathizes with Annie for hating her aunt and uncle as her new parents and her new life with them. Helping Annie puts his life in perspective so he can move on and deal with accepting the changes. At the end when he stands up to an adult that happens to be a bully, he shows that he has grown up and matured on this trip to the point that the reader knows he will be okay.

The romantic subplot shows Annie trusting Mike enough to tell him the truth, but she tends to come off as someone that is manipulative and selfish. Of course she's thirteen and that is pretty typical of that age. Mike has to decide what to tell Kyle. Luckily he trusts his instincts and does the right thing, but he struggles with his decision. The tension drops off a bit in the middle and some convenient coincidences happen in the plot, but there are enough twists to make it interesting. I thought the start and ending were strong and I didn't see the uncle plot twist. 

Besides the theme of divorce and growing up, the author captures the joy of hunting for something or doing something crazy with a friend. Kyle and Mike love collecting coins and the fun is in the hunt. They like to be together whether it's talking or speeding in cars. When I think of all the hair-brained adventures I had with my best friend acting out books, it was because of the challenge it took to recreate plot and then adapt them to our own life. While this book is written for young adults, it is good for middle schoolers. Kyle smokes and there is some romance between Annie and Mike, but it involves only two kisses and Mike wondering about his inexperienced feelings toward her. It's pretty innocent. Add this to your book collection. 

3 Smileys

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