White tire tracks on the black cover

About the Book

Title: Looking for Group
Published: 2017

Cover Story: Tiresome
Drinking Buddy: 7-Eleven Slurpee
Testosterone/Estrogen Level: Goodness…
Talky Talk: Highway Hypnosis
Bonus Factors:  Lost Treasure
Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting
Bromance Status: Let’s Hit the Road

Cover Story: Tiresome

Yes, it’s a road trip book. Yes, those are tire tracks. It doesn’t catch my eye. And I’m not sure what they were thinking with the dark purple text on a black cover. I never cared for black covers anyway.

The Deal:

So Dylan was a ‘cancer kid.’ He had it bad. It was at the point that they were sending him home so he could die in his own bed. And then, one day, it was gone. Total remission. Not exactly a miracle, but it’s close.

So now that he’s well again, he’s kind of at loose ends. When you weren’t supposed to see your 18th birthday, where do you go next? He’s supposed to enroll in high school, but instead, he drives off to visit Arden.

You see, when Dylan was sick, he played a lot of World of Warcraft. He became online friends with Arden, a transgender girl a few towns over. So Dylan drives off to say hi, maybe hang out a little bit. And Dylan’s gay, so he’s not looking for romance.

But what was supposed to be an evening together turns into a cross country road trip, as they drive across the nation in search of a lost shipwreck. And maybe, just maybe…find the world’s largest ball of twine.

Drinking Buddy: 7-Eleven Slurpee

Two pints of beer cheersing

Dylan doesn’t know how to identify as anything but the dying kid. Arden is fighting for her identity as a female. Dylan lives with his mother, who laps up martyrdom with a spoon. Arden lives with her father, who calls her David. Dylan is ass poor. Arden is almost comically rich. These guys have nothing in common but an online video game, a feeling of not belonging, and a shitty home life.

But sometimes that’s enough.

Testosterone/Estrogen Level: Goodness…

So Dylan is gay and Arden is a girl. They’re destined to just be friends, right? Except…that’s not how things turn out. And when two kids are alone, in a car, in the middle of nowhere…yeah, that was one of the hottest scenes I’ve read in YA literature in a long time. Whew.

Talky Talk: Highway Hypnosis

So the ultimate goal of the trip is find the Lost Ship of the Desert, a ship, laden with pearls, that wrecked in the California desert and was lost to time. Dylan and Arden, using Google Earth, think they’ve found a likely spot. 

Things hit a snag when Arden’s car is stolen, and they’re forced to trade Dylan’s pain medicine to a sleazy guy for a rust heap. And they’re off: thousands of miles of camping, dirty hotels, fast food, and local attractions.

However, the danger kind of falls flat, with Arden getting thousands of dollars as a cash advance from her credit card, and her father buying the excuse that she’s at the lake house with her friends. On the other hand, that sort of blase attitude about money really shocks Dylan, who who knows what government cheese tastes like. And while they enjoy a lot of roadside attractions, I think there could have been more.

Still, this is a book about people, not places. Dylan, who’s always known he was gay, is shocked by his attraction to the very feminine Arden. Arden, who is struggling to assert  her identity as a woman, is angered when Dylan misgenders her in front of a cop ‘to make things easier.’ They both know there will be hell to pay after this trip, that their relationship is probably doomed, and they may never see each other again.

But they’re WoW players. This is a quest. And they’re going to see it through to the very end.

Bonus Factor: Lost Treasure

Treasure chest with a skull, compass, and pearls

We’ve all read about the missing Civil War gold, the lost Nazi treasure, the money pit at Oak Island, the Lost Dutchman Mine, the lake at El Dorado, and other lesser known lost fortunes. And we’ve all fantasized that maybe, just maybe, we’d be the one to turn over that exact rock and see the gleam of gold. True, people have been looking for those places for hundreds of years, but you never know.

And that’s what Dylan and Arden are looking for. They know the odds are slim, but hey, it’s all about the trip, not the destination.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Parents

Patty Chase, Angela's mother from My So Called Life, standing in the kitchen

Arden’s father does not accept the fact that he has a daughter. He constantly misgenders and deadnames her. On the other hand, he has no trouble with Dylan spending the night. They’re just a couple of guys, after all.

Dylan’s mother is a real piece of work. While the government pays for Dylan’s treatments, she and her friend place donation jars around town, then use the proceeds to buy lottery tickets and booze. The friend has a plan to sell Dylan’s pain medication. And his mother loves the ‘poor, poor me’ role.

Is it any wonder the kids ran away?

Bromance Status: Let’s Hit the Road

I enjoyed our trip together, I couldn’t ask for two better companions. Hope to ride with you again, sometime.

FTC Full disclosure: I received neither money nor Nerf Guns for reviewing this book.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.