Skate – Michael Harmon
With a cover like this, isn’t it obvious what kind of book this is? I mean, Raiders Night, Crackback, Rooftop… Obviously, if you have a black and white cover image with a red title, these days it means you’re about to read a gritty guy book. (And interestingly, none of these books share a publisher)
Ian McDermott has not had an easy life. At 15, he’s got more on his plate than some people twice his age, and definitely more than most of his rich jock classmates. His mother’s a drug addict who’s rarely at home, which mean Ian has to take care of Sammy, his 10-year old, learning disabled brother. Ian is also a skateboarder who refuses to give in to the coaches and administration at his athletics-obsessed high school. As a freshman in gym class, he ran the fastest mile time of anyone. The coaches want him to play a sport, but sports aren’t his thing. Nothing, not even the special treatment the athletes receive, will change his mind.
Ian’s been in trouble before, but nothing prepares him for what happens next. His school’s Vice Principal visits his home hoping to speak to his mother. She’s not there, but her crack pipe is. The next day in school, he refuses to obey a coach’s orders in gym class. As he leaves, the coach grabs him, and Ian punches him. He knows that if the Vice Principal called Child Protective Services, he and Sammy will be separated, and he can’t let that happen. Punching a teacher is not going to help their case. So Ian grabs Sammy and they take off on a 160 mile journey from Spokane to Walla Walla in search of their father.
From the first page, Michael Harmon sucks you into Ian’s story. It’s Ian’s need to live by his own rules and his love for Sammy that keep the reader hooked. He’s angry, he’s more than a bit lost (in more than one way), and he’s real. Like Ian, the book is imperfect yet compelling. There were several plot turns that verged on the too coincidental, but then again, it’s not so much the plot that makes the book, it’s Ian. If you’re looking for a skateboarding book, this ain’t it. But if you want a book about a kid struggling to keep his life from falling apart, who makes mistakes but learns to trust, then give this book a try.