Take Me There by Carolee Dean
Publication Date: July 20, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: violence, illiteracy, absent parents
Format read: Paperback from the library.
Summary: An unfortunate situation drives Dylan out-of-town, just when he thinks his life is taking a positive turn.
Talk about deceiving covers. I thought I knew what I was walking into when I started Take Me There. Two people making out in the middle of the road… I was imagining a sexy love story.
Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not what I got. Not even close.
The novel centers on Dylan, a kid who has been in and out of trouble a lot during his life, and is finally making some progress after leaving juvie. He’s working at a mechanic, he’s reunited with a good girl from high school (Jess), and he’s slowly learning to read and express the thoughts that could his head into poetry. Unfortunately, his best friend (who is like his brother) is not on the same path of righteousness. Wades gets Dylan caught up in another disaster and the two are forced to flee Texas, where Dylan decides he must seek out his father — a man on death row — to figure out just why he is the way he is.
Whew. That’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?
The drama just doesn’t stop, and while the book is pretty fast-paced, it is equally frustrating. Dylan’s voice did not seem true to his character. In fact, he was a bit too flowery for his own good, more like a jaded character in a Nicholas Sparks novel. Sure, he’s sort of romantic and is really creative but after all he’s been through I just would have wanted something more bitter, or scruffy. (An example would be Trish Doller’s main character in Something Like Normal. She had him pitch perfect.)
Jess, while a sweet girl, is not involved too much in the story actually which surprised me and most of the time wasn’t very dimensional as a character. Part of this was suitable for the story because it was really about Dylan uncovering the crapfest that his life has become. He drives around a lot, crashes with his tough grandmother, and attempts to figure things out by talking to his father but only falls deeper into the distrustful and unlawful entanglement that is his family. It’s heartbreaking, really, and there were times I felt for Dylan but I also believed he could have done a lot more for himself. (Though Dean does draw attention to the illiteracy epidemic, which I thought was noteworthy.)
While I wasn’t expecting a fairy tale ending, I was still unpleasantly surprised by how everything turned out; Dean would have done better by her character to do something a bit more open-ended. Sure lessons were learned but it almost seemed like history kept repeating itself and that was just accepted? It just didn’t seem right to me.
Despite everything, I couldn’t NOT finish Take Me There. (Picturing Dylan as Channing Tatum helped too.) Sure, there’s a lack of believability when it comes to these characters and the challenges life throws their way but I just had to know how it all ended. (To return to an earlier reference, this is exactly how I feel about Nick Sparks novels and I still read them.)