The Last True Love Story
Simon & Schuster, 2016 276 pgs.
Seventeen year old Hendrix spends his life as an observer. His days consist of going to school, where he does not fully engage, and then spending time with his elderly grandfather at his nursing home. A chance encounter with an interesting guitar playing classmate shakes Hendrix's life up beyond his wildest dreams. Corrina encourages Hendrix to "borrow" his mother's car and leave their southern California home home to journey to the east coast. Gpa, the grandfather, is suffering from Alzheimer's and the continuing loss of his memories is frustrating and sad. Hendrix offers Gpa one last experience: to travel to the place where he and his deceased wife fell in love and were married many years previously. This unlikely trio, complete with Hendrix's inappropriate dog, hit the road traveling through the desert and beyond, meeting interesting characters along the way and encountering unexpected situations. Through the journey Hendrix learns of the truth behind his deceased father's past and encounters someone from it who can shed light on this missing chapter, while introducing him to a family that he didn't know he had. Eventually the parents of the teenagers and the nursing home staff realizes that the group has escaped and make attempts to retrieve them. Will this wandering band of travelers complete their quest and make it to New York before they are forced back to California?
Kiely, co-author of All American Boys, heads in a much different direction, offing teens a classic road trip novel with a twist. Two very different teenagers escape their unbearable lives together, predictably falling in love, yet changing and maturing in unexpected ways. The twist comes in the form of Gpa, who is suffering from Alzheimer's and is rapidly loosing his memories and must be monitored at all times. Hendrix takes control of his life and tries to save his grandfather the only way he can think of. Is it the best idea to take Gpa on the road without his meds and permission? Perhaps not, but it makes for a great story and Hendrix certainly learns and grows from the experience. Kiely clearly "respects the road trip" and the story does not disappoint in the way of crazy characters and situations often seen in this genre; some good and some not so good. Hendrix faces the truth behind his parent's marriage and even though his father is long-since dead, meets someone along the way who sheds light on his family and his place in it. Gpa is dealing with not only the loss of his memories and his true love, but is still wrestling with his experience in the Vietnam War and, partly through Corrina's music, finds peace with that volatile time in his life. This book is plot driven, dialogue heavy, and action filled. Reluctant teens will enjoy it and it reads quickly. Since the main character is a boy, it is boy friendly-although the title may put male readers off. Regardless, The Last True Love Story will draw in a wide audience of readers and is very enjoyable. Kiely proves that a road trip is not about the destination, but what happens along the way and how it can change the traveler.