Greyhound by Steffan Piper

One sentence synopsis: negligent mother sends her 12 year old son alone on a 3-day cross-country Greyhound bus trip where he learns about life.

Greyhound was an enjoyable romp through a depressing theme. Sebastian’s mother is rubbish and ditches him in favour of her latest boyfriend. He’s sent across America to live with his grandparents on the Greyhound bus, and 95% of the book is that journey. Various alarming things happen, but he befriends a guy and various other characters who give him insights into life and try to look after him in their own ways – more looking after than he ever received at home.

It’s not great literature, but it’s fairly well done and certainly the story is compelling – I stayed up late to finish it. Its main problem is failing to capture the voice of this 12 year old boy – the author constantly uses words that clearly Sebastian would never use, or even know, which jolted me out of the story every time. And some of his musings would only make sense if he was looking back on the trip as a worly weary older man, which he isn’t. This failure to grasp the right tone for the book’s protagonist and narrator is fairly distracting.

Sebastian himself doesn’t have much character to him – he’s more of a blank slate on which the other, colorful characters write. But somehow it all pulls together despite its flaws. This is a road trip book in the American tradition, with a pleasing sprinkle of bus nerdery. It is surprisingly satisfying.

Rating: 3/5 shoes

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