Right. So this was my first e-book on my spanking new Kindle. After beating myself up for going over to the dark side and reading e-books for an hour, I sat down with my copy of widely acclaimed author Andrew Smith’s latest book, 100 Sideways Miles. I wasn’t sure what kind of book this was going to be. The cover has a horse falling from the sky. The blurb acts like a summary of the entire story. However, sceptical yet undaunted, I got down to reading about the adventures of Finn Easton and Cade Hernandez and Julia Bishop.
Now, Finn Easton is one of the strangest protagonists I have ever come across, as he sees the world around him in miles instead of minutes. He lives in the fictional town of Burnt Mill Creek located near the San Francisquito Valley (real) in California. He also suffers from epilepsy and sees ghosts. To top it off, when Finn was little, a large horse fell off a bridge and landed on top of his mother and him, leaving a scar that looks like this [:ǀ:]. This scar is similar to those described by Finn’s father in his bestselling book, The Lazarus Door, as being on the backs of deadly aliens that rape and eat humans. So, poor Finn ends up with an identity crisis of sorts and sets out on a road trip with Cade to figure out the ending of his story.
Finn’s romantic interest, Julia Bishop, is a girl from Chicago hiding a big secret. From the moment Finn sees her, he falls head over heels in love with her. Julia, in turn, gets why Finn named his dog ‘Laika’, bears with his mood swings when he recuperates from his seizures, and, thankfully, she loves him back. However, she must return to Chicago, the very place where she was victim of a tragedy that makes Finn wish he “could push the world back all those miles with my bare hands and make it change direction,” even if it means they’d never have met.
Finally, there’s Cade Hernandez, Finn’s best friend and my favourite character. A god among boys. Confident, attractive, hilarious, audacious, loyal. But even in these moments, you can see how deeply he portrays the truth about adolescent boys. Tobacco-chewing, forever talking about “boners” and shameless when it comes to harassing their apoplectic History teacher, Mr Nossick. I love him. His banter with Finn is excellent and the way he daily comes up with a new way to see how Finn’s scars resemble something sexual (E.g. “What flounders look like when they fuck”) will have you laughing out loud.
The story isn’t describing a grand adventure and neither does it have a huge plot twist. It’s written with a big character, one big voice and a sympathetic experience. I initially thought this book looked weird, wacky, straight up confusing and out of this world. But I never felt that way while actually reading the story. And that’s the beauty of it. The characters are so incredible, realistic and relatable that the story sounds believable from beginning to end. They have their faults, and they make mistakes and they think some of the most incredibly stupid things but they’re also clever and emotional and full of so much potential. Plus, it has one of the most hilarious condom-buying scenes ever written.
So don’t be afraid of the horse on the cover. You’ll find something mesmerising inside. If you haven’t read an Andrew Smith story before, this is a great place to start. It’s funny and real and beautiful and you’re going to laugh and you’re going to get emotional and love every minute of it. This is a book for every reader. From chicks who cried over crap like Fault In Our Stars to boys who are too cool to open a book. Anyone who isn’t looking for yet another teen book about love triangles (yes, you), this book is for you.