As the grandson (and third-generation namesake) of the author of A WORLD AWAY, a book supposedly so widely respected that it is read in high schools everywhere, Arthur Louis Pullman finds himself in an unhappy place. His girlfriend has given him the heave-ho, his best friend has betrayed him, he’s broken his hand by punching a wall in anger and frustration (thereby forfeiting a full-ride tennis scholarship), and he has behaved in a manner that has caused his father such concern that he’s shipped him off to stay with his aunt and uncle. In addition, he grieves for his grandfather who, suffering from Alzheimer’s, wandered off to parts unknown and was finally declared dead. As his father and the rest of the family discuss reissuing A WORLD AWAY in an updated format to raise badly needed funds, Arthur finds a small journal belonging to his grandfather that speaks of destinations to be retraced and train journeys to be taken. Hoping to temporarily set aside (and maybe in time solve) his own problems by following his grandfather’s clues, he sets off to visit the places so profoundly meaningful to his grandpa.
Along the way he meets helpful Mara, who introduces him to a group of Pullman fan followers who have organized themselves into a social/political group that tries to implement the teachings of his grandfather on a global scale, and he meets Jack, who claims to be the son of gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson, a close friend of his grandfather. Tensions rise as Jack competes to control the Pullman/Thompson legacies at the same time Arthur races to finish his search before his father tracks him down and hauls him back home.
This is a complicated book with interesting construction that relates the circular but enduring events, thoughts, and memories of a person as they are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The literary conceit of life as a train journey is effective, and characters show development and growth. The ending is surprising but satisfactorily positive and hopeful. I can imagine most young adults who are good readers would find this a fascinating read.
Objectionable language is an issue, with variations of f*** on just about every other page. Religious profanity is not infrequent. Sexual references are few. Some violence is depicted. One gay relationship is mentioned.
Categories: Controversial YA Topics, Death and Grieving, Dysfunctional Relationships, Grief, LGBTQIA, Mental Health, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism, Social Media, Suicide