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Reviews of Four for the Road by K Reilly

Four for the Road

by K J. Reilly

Four for the Road by K J. Reilly X
Four for the Road by K J. Reilly
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2022, 288 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2023, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jane McCormack
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About this Book

Book Summary

The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets The End of the F***ing World in this dark young adult comedy about four unlikely friends dealing with the messy side of grief who embark on a road trip to Graceland.

Asher Hunting wants revenge.

Specifically, he wants revenge on the drunk driver who killed his mom and got off on a technicality. No one seems to think this is healthy, though, which is how he ends up in a bereavement group (well, bereavement groups. He goes to several.) It's there he makes some unexpected friends: There's Sloane, who lost her dad to cancer; Will, who lost his little brother to a different kind of cancer; and eighty-year-old Henry, who was married to his wife for fifty years until she decided to die on her own terms. And it's these three who Asher invites on a road trip from New Jersey to Graceland. Asher doesn't tell them that he's planning to steal his dad's car, or the real reason that he wants to go to Tennessee (spoiler alert: it's revenge)—but then again, the others don't share their reasons for going, either.

Complete with unexpected revelations, lots of chicken Caesar salads at roadside restaurants, a stolen motorcycle, and an epic kiss at a rest stop minimart, what begins as the road trip to revenge might just turn into a path towards forgiveness.

Chapter 1

My mom died and everyone says that I'm not handling it well.

I would think that if I was handling it well, that would be the time to worry. Like if I was going to parties and having friends over and acting normal, because no one should act normal when things are not normal. I mean that would be like watching TV when the house is burning because you forgot to shut the oven off which I only did once. Not because I wanted to die or didn't care that the house was on fire—it was just that I really didn't notice on account of the fact that my mom died and that made me not notice things. But just about everyone found that hard to believe, especially the firemen because they said that when they found me there was so much smoke in the house that I couldn't see the TV and I was still sitting there staring at it anyway.

Okay, so my mom died twelve months three weeks one day six hours and fourteen minutes ago and some people think that I should be better by now and not burning down ...

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Reviews

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While Asher's rambling inner monologues parallel those of J.D. Salinger's famous character Holden Caulfield, Asher has an ace up his sleeve that eluded Holden: steadfast friends and wise allies. The peculiarities of the travelers provide comic relief, and their collective strength gives the reader a sense of comfort that Asher will ultimately "turn his wounds into wisdom." Will has a penchant for quoting philosophers, Sloane possesses a depth of compassion and Henry carries with him, quite literally, his deceased wife of 50 years as she accompanies the group in her urn. Although at times the plot feels a bit fantastical, such as in Asher's elaborate catfishing of Jack Daniels' daughter, the work provides an authentic narrative of teenagers trying to make their way to adulthood amidst astounding odds and breathtaking loss. Reilly underscores the timeless earmarks of resiliency: friends who save us from ourselves, and the capacity "to cling to something we're not entirely sure can hold us up," such as hope...continued

Full Review (707 words)

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(Reviewed by Jane McCormack).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
Reilly explores the avenues of grief most people don't encounter until they are older, and she does it with bright, funny characters who hold onto one another and the truths that unfold on their trip.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
So overwhelming is the load of trauma [each character carries] that it's hard to see how their journey could end on a buoyant note, but Reilly pulls it off by developing rich friendships while artfully slipping in comical elements on the way to a climactic whirl of laughter, tears, budding romance, and well-placed insights...A heady round trip, heavy baggage and all, from heartbreak to healing.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Reilly uses empathetic prose, and Asher's by turns biting and achingly earnest voice, to expertly portray the white-cued group's journey through individual and shared grief.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Teaching Young People Philosophy

Question mark drawn in chalk on pavement above a pair of black-and-white sneakers In K.J. Reilly's coming-of-age novel Four for the Road, main character Asher Hunting is fortunate to have an insightful sidekick to advise him. Will has suffered loss just as Asher has, but Will presents as more equipped to navigate his way through his grief. Early on in the book, Will recites Kierkegaard to Asher, noting that the philosopher believed that "everyone suffers from a deep kind of despair over their existence." While Will's uttering could be dismissed as nerdiness or quirkiness, and it might seem strange to some that a teenager would steep himself in abstruse schools of thought, the study of philosophy may be just what young people need.

At various critical moments in the work, Will is able to reason with Asher regarding...

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Read-Alikes

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