The Other Way Around by Sashi Kaufman ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: March 1, 2014
Publisher: Lerner/Carolrhoda Lab
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: running away, road trip, new friends, parents
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Summary: Andrew is friendless and uninspired at another new school, where his mom is the headmistress. After a horrible Thanksgiving celebration with the family, he decides to escape his home and visit his grandmother. A surprise admission from his mother is extra push he needs to tag along with a group of kids, road tripping through the country, surviving on money from strangers, food from dumpsters, and a freedom that Andrew has never experienced.
One of the main things that stuck with me after I finished The Other Way Around was Andrew’s unconventional character growth.
How many people run away from their home and their school and get involved in a road trip with a couple of hippies who are surviving by performing on the streets, stalking the best dumpsters, and, once in awhile, encountering the kindness of strangers? After dealing with so much pressure from his mother and the flakiness of his dad, Andrew has no one patrolling his every move or pushing him into situations that make him feel uncomfortable.
Ah, the sweet smell of freedom.
Well, it’s not actually that sweet since no one is showering regularly and dumpsters don’t exactly smell like flowers. But for the first time, Andrew is hanging out with kids around his age and the world is open to him in a whole different way. He has the space to think about his relationship with his parents and their divorce, and finally make some choices of his own.
This dynamic in young adult is so interesting to me as a reader, because as a teenager, how much control do you have over how your parents treat you? Do you ever get that opportunity to stand up for yourself or will you constantly be dismissed because of your age and lack of life experience?
Andrew’s growing friendship with G, his attraction to Emily, and experiences on the road (this might be strange but I really loved how vivid and descriptive the chicken scene was on their farm stop) all contribute to him opening up, connecting with other people, and learning how to talk to his mom. I liked that Kaufman made Andrew work for his relationships in the van, and didn’t have him totally turn away from his home either.
While it took a little time to get into the swing of The Other Way Around, I really enjoyed this — a fresh male POV, great stops along a road trip, and bravery found in strange places.