Seventeen year-old dirt-bike-riding daredevil Arlo Santiago catches the eye of the U.S. military with his first-place ranking on a video game featuring drone warfare, and must reconcile the work they want him to do with the emotional scars he has suffered following a violent death in his family. Adios, Nirvana author Conrad Wesselhoeft, takes readers from the skies over war-torn Pakistan to the dusty arroyos of New Mexico's outback in this young adult novel about daring to live in the wake of unbearable loss.
Kenya Man explodes out of my phone:
L.A. . . . L.A. . . . L.A. Gonna get my junk in play
At the corner of Sunset and La Brea.
I jerk out of REM sleep, level nine. Scramble and find my phone wedged under El Guapo’s ass, punch in.
“Dude,” I rasp, “be right out.”
But instead of Cam or Lobo on the other end, it’s some space cowboy.
“Hello, is this Arlo Santiago?”
Everything about the voice sounds like a jail door clanging shut.
“Am I speaking with Arlo Spencer Santiago?” “Uhhhhhhhmm . . .”
El Guapo—“The Handsome One”—arches his back and starts to hump me, his way of saying good morning. I shove him, and he tumbles ass-over-floppy-ears onto the floor. Then he pops up and grins at me.
He’s always grinning. Humping and grinning. He’s the grin- ningest, humpingest dog in the world. Probably the only stan- dard poodle in all northeast New Mexico.
“Guess so,” I...
Wesselhoeft understands the power of stories. He believes we need them "to learn how to live and to understand who we are." And he knows how to write to achieve this power. Through Arlo, I felt that place of recent grief; a swirling of emotion, like standing on the edge of that New Mexico mesa and feeling the wind blow tough and hard in every direction. Wesselhoeft quotes Walt Whitman when he talks about grief: "Every moment of light and dark is a miracle." This is how Dirt Bikes, Drones and Other Ways to Fly reads. Like a series of small miracles.
(Reviewed by Tamara Smith).
Full Review (1282 words).
BookBrowse's Tamara Smith Interviews Conrad Wesselhoeft, Author of Dirt Bikes, Drones and Other Ways to Fly
Conrad Wesselhoeft worked as a tugboat hand in Singapore and Peace Corps Volunteer in Polynesia before embarking on a career in journalism. He has served on the editorial staffs of five newspapers, including The New York Times. He is the author of the young adult novels Adios, Nirvana (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) and Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). His ancestors were doctors to Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcott, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. His three children are in various stages of university study or career exploration. He lives in West Seattle with a poodle named Django (the "D" is...
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