Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

Joyriding in Cars with Boys

Mandy W. says "Ja!" to heading out on the autobahn with Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf.

Joyriding in Cars with Boys

BOOK REPORT for Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf, translated by Tim Mohr

Cover Story: Not Too Shabby
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Swoonworthy Scale: 1
Talky Talk: Hilariously Rambletastic
Bonus Factors: Translation, Road Trip
Relationship Status: Travelling Buddy

Cover Story: Not Too Shabby

Well, it's instantly obvious that this is a road trip book, even if the font's pretty LOUD. While this cover strikes the right youthful tone, it's just a touch too generic.

I prefer the more subdued Aussie version, which reminds me of bits and pieces from the covers for How I Live Now, Winter Town, and The Fault in Our Stars -- which are pretty dang good cover to emulate. And extra pants for featuring the light blue Lada, which is practically a character in its own right.

The Deal:

It's the summer after eighth grade, and Mike Klingenberg is being held at a police station far from his home in Berlin. How the self-proclaimed boring and friendless Mike got there is all thanks to an unforgettable road trip in a stolen car with the strange new kid named Tschick. No one's bound to call these two outcasts boring again, that's for sure.

BFF Charm: Big Sister

Grownup Me loves the delightfully off-kilter Mike, but Teen Me def. would have stayed away from him and his unironic dragon-emblazoned jacket. It'd be tough for Teen Me to look past the Psycho moniker he was once saddled with. Which is a shame, because Mike's witty and perceptive and he's going to be SO GOOD at being an adult. And although he doesn't throw himself pity parties for his lack of friends and his turbulent home life, that's still something Mike needs to hear. 

The enigmatic Andrej Tschichatschow -- or Tschick, for the phonetically challenged -- could also use better adult influence in his life. Not that I'm even qualified for being such, but I'd at least be better than Tschick's big bro and guardian, who steals cars with him and lets the kid roll into class drunk as a skunk. (At fourteen. FOURTEEN! Holy shizz, Tschick's fourteen is not the same as a sheltered suburban Canadian fourteen.)

Then again, too much grownup interference might mean that Mike and Tschick wouldn't have embarked on this wonderful adventure together. So I'm perfectly fine with being their big sister that bails them out of all the trubs they get themselves into. And frequently hides the liquor bottles from Tschick (... to save for herself and her friends).

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

I wouldn't consider this book swoony, but it so perfectly captures the awkwardness of an adolescent crush.

I don't know if it's always so embarrassing to have a crush on somebody. Apparently I'm not very good at it.

I mean, RIGHT?! That's totally me from age seven to -- uh, well, present day. (So maybe not just adolescence... )

[In] the seventh grade [Tatiana] suddenly popped up on my radar -- and that's when all my misery began. 

[...]

I could blather on about her for ages, but the surprising thing is that I actually have no idea what I'm talking about. I don't know Tatiana at all. 

And haven't we all had a Tatiana in our youth? A hopeless and desperate crush that you later realized had no freaking semblance of basis? (OK, FINE. MAYBE THESE ARE ALL JUST ME.)

Talky Talk: Hilariously Rambletastic

This is one of those books that you'll be able to tell right away if it it's for you or not. Because it starts off quite fucking ramble-y. (And there are cusses aplenty throughout the book, too.) Not as messy as stream of consciousness, but there are tons of stray thoughts, as well as some out-of-chronology snippets that you'll appreciate and understand so much more upon re-reading.

The cop shouts at the doctor. How do I even know he's a doctor? He's wearing a white coat. So I guess he could also be a baker. But in the pocket of the coat is a metal flashlight and some kind of listening device. What would a baker need something like that for -- to listen for a heartbeat in a bread roll? It's got to be a doctor.

It's not a style that's going to work for everyone, although it does calm down once the expository stuff is out of the way. Fortunately, it works for me -- as you can probably surmise from the amount of meandering in this book report alone. Plus, much like Mindy Kaling's memoir, I knew I'd love it as soon as it name-dropped my fave* basketball player, Dirk Nowitzki.

*Attention, authors! I am easily pandered to. Please inquire for a list of my interests.

Bonus Factor: Translation

YA lit is so not only an English-speaking phenomenon, and I am S-T-O-K-E-D to see more YA translations! Translate ALL TEH BOOKZ.

Bonus Factor: Road Trip

Without any sense of direction or legality to drive, Mike and Tschick first venture out in a clunky Lada to crash a party that they weren't invited to (natch). And without much to go back home to, the allure of the open road is too much to resist. 

Casting Call:

The dudes I've cast are too old, but I doubt that a North American adaptation would keep the characters as fourteen-year-olds anyway. (And I actually think this would make a great graphic novel or animated film.)

Miles Heizer as Mike

Nail Yakupov as Tschick

As for Tschick, I really can't justify casting Anton Yelchin in the role. And the only other Russian celebs I know are hockey players, so.

Relationship Status: Travelling Buddy

I'm about to sound like a privileged brat in a sec, so please bear with me. But one of my greatest tests of any relationship is travelling together. If you can survive a vacay without killing each other, that's a success. If you emerge at the end and like each other just as much as (or even more than) before, it's a flipping triumph. So when I say that I'd go on adventures with this book again -- even if it means sleeping in cars and getting lost in the German countryside -- you know our friendship is for reals.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Arthur A. Levine Books. I received neither money nor froyo for writing this review (dammit!). Why We Took the Car is available now.

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.