GOING PLACES by Kathryn Berla is a coming-of-age novel that follows Hudson Wheeler through his senior year of high school. He only needs two classes to graduate, so he has plenty of free time to chase the edgy, art girl, run his two businesses, and start his own graphic novel. His life is unconventional, but then again, it’s been that way since his dad died in Iraq.
When his dad passed, Hudson thought his opportunity to be someone important did too. Instead of fighting that notion, he developed firm, nontraditional plans for the future that go unchallenged until he meets Mr. Pirkle, the old recluse, and Fritzy, the athletic girl who could kick his butt. With their help, Hudson begins to reexamine who he could be and starts to realize his full potential. He discovers there’s more than just hope for himself. He is indeed going places.
This book fully exceeded my expectations. After reading the jacket copy, I was prepared for a bland, standard, run-of-the-mill story, but what I got instead was a colorful and vibrant slice of life. GOING PLACES is funny, brash, heartfelt, mysterious, gripping, poignant, and human. It is everything you would want from a tale about growing up, and then some. I spent most of the novel laughing out loud and finished it in tears. I felt every emotion on the spectrum, mainly because the characters mirrored real people so exquisitely.
There were multiples times that I was surprised by a character’s behavior, not because it wasn’t what someone would actually do in the real world, but because it wasn’t what authors would typically allow their characters to do in the book world. Kathryn Berla went there without being heavy-handed. She didn’t wallow in the drama, but instead pushed her characters onward as people do to themselves in real life. She also gave Hudson strong agency, which made him likable.
Overall, GOING PLACES strings together many different plotlines seamlessly. It deals with dark and difficult themes, while also highlighting the absurdity of being a teenager. It is a delightful novel and I feel privileged to have read it.