There’s a whole cast of unusual and (mostly) helpful characters that Cordy meets along the way too, folks who whether they intend to or not help him along his physical and internal journey as he tries to gain a better understanding of his family and his own place in the world.
While it’s a fun story about a teenager traveling cross-country on his quest, it’s not without heavier topics. This is an underage teenager who’s set out on the journey without informing his family so he faces many dangers on the road, has to grapple with past trauma, and learns from others he meets on the road about the struggles they’ve faced and are currently facing.
I really enjoyed the adventurous tone of the story, and if you love jazz music, John Coltrane in particular, and American geography, there’s lots to get lost in as Cordy travels up the country towards Birdland.
While I liked most of the characters, I felt I needed to read Cordy through a bit of an unreliable narrator lens, especially with how naive he is vs how suave and intelligent he thinks of himself as. He’s on the run and there’s a missing person report out for him, yet he introduces himself to every stranger on the road with his full name and hometown! What are you doing, Cordy?
I was also uncomfortable with Cordy’s seeming idolization of such historical figures as the Founding Fathers. At one point in the book, he considers how they would’ve considered the present world and its treatment of, among others, a Black man, in terms of the rights they originally set out for the country. I would’ve preferred more nuance in this discussion, especially as many of the Founding Fathers were slaveowners.
There’s also one character who we’re made to hate and unfortunately their meanness and ‘evilness’ is presented through fatphobic statements. Their weight and eating habits are constantly brought up in every passage they’re mentioned in as a reflection of their character. There are a lot of other ways to depict an evil character than to conflate fat with bad.
I was impressed with the ending. I did start to guess where it was going but it was a natural progression that still felt unexpected. Though I do wish we’d had more time to settle in with an expanded ending, as it felt rather abrupt after how long the whole journey had been stretched out.
Moderate: Body shaming, Bullying, Child abuse, Drug abuse, Physical abuse, and Terminal illness
Minor: Blood, Cancer, Gun violence, Medical content, and Sexual assault
Minor: Drug abuse