Reviews

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Fleischman (Whirligig; Seek) explores the way art allows people to re-examine their lives, in this chronicle of a young woman who experiences an emotional breakthrough while stranded among strangers on the San Diego Freeway-and its contribution to her work onstage. The novel opens with the narrative of 17-year-old Audelia "Del" Thigpen who, readers learn, has just faked her own drowning in order to escape her latest foster home; en route to Taos she becomes mired in a traffic jam. The narrative then fast-forwards eight years: Del has assumed the identity of Elena Franco, and is being interviewed in Denver as the star of a one-woman show centered on characters trapped in a traffic jam (she describes the piece as "autobiography seen through weird, wavy glass"). The two narratives alternate, with a photo of a traffic tie-up and a photo of a microphone (plus differing type fonts) to indicate which is which. Splicing together related vignettes, as he has done successfully in the past, Fleischman here allows the real and imagined events to blend, supplementing and augmenting each other. This blending is both the novel's strength and its weakness. For instance, one of the most poignant moments occurs while the cars are at a standstill, and Del becomes intrigued with a performance artist who is interviewing various drivers about road rage; he ignores Del while interviewing a "tank-topped twenty-something," and Del's response points to her history of abandonment. But in other ways, because of the episodic presentation, readers learn little about her (e.g., the origins of her interest in films and books) so that when, at the close of her show, she finally relates her epiphany, it feels anticlimactic. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 10 Up-An ambitious and entertaining novel told in concurrent narratives. Del is a bright, self-possessed teen who carefully plans her escape from home, but her first day of "freedom" is spent in a colossal Los Angeles traffic jam. Readers see how her experiences and impressions become fodder for her art via a series of monologues she delivers as an adult performance artist. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 10 Up-Running away from her latest foster home, 17-year-old Del begins her new life trapped in traffic on a Los Angeles freeway, gathering the experiences that will fuel her successful later life as Elena Franco, playwright and performance artist. When a serious accident turns the Santa Monica freeway into a virtual parking lot, Del whiles away her time, cleaning her new old car, watching the people around her, wandering off in search of food and a bathroom, and finally participating in an impromptu talent show. Interspersed with these mundane activities are scenes from Elena's monologues written eight years later and presented in italics and a description of an out-of-body experience she had in a similar traffic jam in which she flies over the traffic carefully observing the people around her. Her intriguing character sketches include an insurance agent attempting to get on with his work in spite of the baby in back, a boy with a stolen '51 Hudson Hornet that attracts everyone's attention, and a pair of drain cleaners who see a golden opportunity to pick up women. Through Elena, readers learn that Del successfully broke away not only from the traffic jam but also from her old life, and has made a living and a family of her own. Del is a believable teen, poised on the edge of something new but not quite yet sure where her talents will take her. Fleischman's artful structure, distinctive voices, and carefully chosen details make this a splendid choice for teens on the verge of a breakout of their own.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Gr. 9-12. Seventeen-year-old Del, a perpetual foster child, is breaking out. A rusting Datsun is taking her out of town, but it's the traffic jam on the freeway that gives her the time to frame a new life. Amplifying this structure are two concurrent narratives: Del's interior monologue as she worries, rages, and waits for the logjam to break, and a narrative taking place eight years in the future, as Del, a playwright now calling herself Elena, performs her one-woman show about being caught in freeway traffic. Del is a sharp observer, and the jam-up allows her to notice the people around her: a father trying to sell insurance and care for a baby at the same time; a guy tutoring a younger man in the art of picking up women, who mistakenly tries his tactics on a lesbian. Elena's narrative, less specific and more wide-ranging, reveals some of the decisions that she made to get to where she is. This artful, insightful work makes demands on its readers, but teenagers will find the rewards very much worth the effort. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist