Drive Like Hell by Dallas Hudgens

I could not put this book down. From the first page to the last, I couldn’t believe the twists, turns and fast-paced action. it’s the seventies, man, in all its polyester and hard-rock glory!

Sixteen-year-old Luke Fulmer gets an education in misbehaving in Hudgens’s raucous, Southern-fried bildungsroman. The worst crime a coming-of-age novel can commit is to take itself too seriously, and of that charge  Hudgens is most definitely not guilty. In a literary landscape full of self-important teenagers dried out by their own inward-looking portentousness, Luke Fulmer is a welcome alternative. Luke’s story is full of hard situations, and Hudgens never ignores or downplays the difficult truths of life.

Luke hasn’t had the greatest role models: his gorgeous mom, Claudia, needs her soaps like a wino needs his Thunderbird; his deadbeat dad, Lyndell, gets Luke involved in a B and E within 24 hours of seeing him for the first time in a decade; and his older brother, Nick, has done time twice for dealing drugs. It’s Georgia in 1979, where Luke steals his brother’s nickel bags for pocket money and his neighbor’s car for errands-that is, until he smashes it into a tree. He loses his license, is forced to take a job as a busboy at the Holiday Inn, and has to move in with his brother-after all, isn’t Nick walking the straight-and-narrow these days? Not hardly: he may have a landscaping business, a decent golf game and a band, Puss N’ Booze, but he’s also got a nice cocaine trade. Then Luke falls for a kleptomaniac, Nick lands in jail, and Luke has to play pick-up man in a drug drop. Hudgens’s sharp dialogue sparkles throughout, and the cat-and-mouse confrontations between Luke, Nick and the local lawmen are particularly funny. Hudgens’s takes on car racing, Claudia’s dating, Luke’s first love and Nick’s attempts to teach Luke his dubious keys to success also shine in this shaggy but thoroughly enjoyable debut.

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