On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice
Age Range
Release Date
July 30, 2019
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Ked Eakins is about to lose everything.

He's just discovered that his dad has gambled away their rent money. They're going to get kicked out of their home.

But Ked is determined to fight back. He hatches a plan to save their apartment by rebuilding a vintage minibike in his school's maker space, which he'll sell for a profit.

Still, the plan is a gamble of his own: Going to maker space forces Ked into the path of a school bully, who torments him about his progressive spinal condition.

Can Ked -- with the help of some unlikely new friends ​​​​​​​-- find a way to fix the bike and save his family from going under before it's too late?

Editor review

1 review
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Ked Eakins lives in the small town of Norton, where the major manufacturing plants are seeing hard times. His father only works part time, and his mother has left the family because of the father's gambling. To make matters worse, there is no longer his mother's health insurance to help Ked deal with his worsening kyphosis that is progressively ruining his posture. He deals with it by wearing baggy shirts, but the pain is a constant issue, and the kids in middle school are cruel about it. To make matters really bad, his friends have abandoned him one by one, so he has no one with whom to sit in the cafeteria. When Ked finds out that his father is not only behind on the rent, but has gambled the money away on a bet concerning the town's Thin Ice festival, Ked feels he must act. He takes $200 and buys a battered Road Rokkit motorcycle. He hopes to fix it up and sell it for $600 so the rent can be paid. His father, however, has sold his tools, so Ked takes the engine in to the school MakerSpace to work on it. His former friend, Nephi, is there working on a project for the Norton festival, as is Goth Girl Esme and school bullying, Landrover. When space is limited, the teacher who watches the MakerSpace during his planning period, Mr. Feig, lets Ked, Esme and Nephi stay after school to work on their projects while he grades papers. Landrover is angry, and sabotages Ked's efforts, damaging the bike. After struggling with the bike, school, and dealing with his father, Ked is pushed to his limits and thinks he will try to win the Thin Ice festival bet by cracking the ice and collapsing the tower himself-- but when he gets there, he finds Landrover there trying to do the same thing. Not surprisingly, this doesn't go well, but the experience makes Landrover a bit kinder towards Ked. The two work together, Ked gets out of his predicament for the time being, and things look a bit brighter after a heart-to-heart with his misguided but well-meaning father.
Good Points
Ked is an amazing character whose plight will speak to many middle grade readers. Why more books don't delve into the intricacies of lunch room dynamics, I will never know. Ked's physical challenges are lightly handled-- his back certainly bothers him physically and emotionally, but he moves on the best he can. The idea to fix up and sell a motorcycle isn't the best idea, but it is certainly something that I can see occurring to a middle school student as a great way to make money. I normally don't like books about bullying because they are not realistic (swirlies, wedgies, etc.), but what Ked experiences is spot on. Whispered words, quiet digs, friends abandoning him. Told in first person, something about Ked's voice appealed to me and made me want to find out what would happen and how he would deal with it. Combined with the intriguing cover, this story will capture the imagination of a variety of readers.

Wow. This has a lot of emotional impact AND is an interesting read. This is a fantastic book that spans that difficult MG/YA gap and is a great choice for 8th grade boys who have moved beyond books with simple characters and plots. Hand this to readers who liked this author's Rotten, Key's Fourmile, and Vrabel's Bringing Me Back.
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