Summary: Lured into the wrong crowd by his best friend Larry the Lark, Miles finds himself being charged for auto theft after being abandoned at the scene of an accident on Fastback Beach. Sentenced to 100 hours of community service, Miles spends time with the Berniers, an elderly couple with a love for fast cars as well. Their positive influence leads Miles to realise he can have the cars he loves if he really works at it, but his friends, while grateful he didn’t give them up as well, are reluctant to change their ways. When another car goes missing, and then the car Miles was working on as part of his community service, he knows who is responsible and must choose between friendship and doing the right thing.
Number of Pages: 97
Age Range: 12-14
Review: Fastback Beach by Shirlee Smith Matheson is one of the Orca Soundings offerings, meant to hook reluctant readers. Miles’ story is immediately engaging as Matheson plunges her reader into the action of him and his friends stealing a car and going on a joy ride that ends in injury. Left to take responsibility, Miles who was already a reluctant participant decides not to rat out his friends and to plead guilty straight off.
With an absent father who was a race car driver, Miles is drawn to cars and speed as well, and once he finds a healthy outlet for his interests by helping to repair Mr. Berniers’ car for an upcoming show, he’s fine. He may hate the fact that his mother’s boyfriend is about to become his step-father and he might still be drawn to Larry, but it’s still pretty clear he’s going to be okay. Especially with a girlfriend like Kenny.
But it is Larry and Spider who have the problem. They don’t want to stop stealing cars and making easy money by selling off the parts, and Spider seems to resent that Miles wants out. When they steal Mr. Bernier’s car, it isn’t a surprise.
I think though the crux of the novel was supposed to be whether or not Miles will turn them in for the theft, because he has easily connected the dots and knows what they have done. Except I didn’t question it, I knew he was going to turn them in. He’d already changed and found the support he needed to make the right decision, and knew that his friends stealing Mr. Bernier’s car was crossing the line. He knows he has to do what is right, and he does.
It’s a quick, pretty uncomplicated read, but I enjoyed the characters of Miles and Kenny and kind of wish the story had been developed with more detail and complications. A must-read for car enthusiasts.
Memorable Quotes: I didn’t have any.