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Somehow we managed to let this book from November of last year make it all the way till late March without a post. But don’t let that fool you: Elizabeth Dutton’s Driftwood is a fabulous novel with tons of teen appeal: rock stars, letters from beyond the grave, a road trip–this has got all the hallmarks of a great YA novel, with a protagonist that just happens to be in her 20s. Don’t worry about that: give it to your teens and they’ll see all the parallels between Clem’s late-20s coming-of-age and their own late-teens comings-of-ages (if that’s the plural).
DUTTON, Elizabeth. Driftwood. 244p. Skyhorse. Nov. 2014. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781629144993.
Clem is the middle child of a famous rock star, Tommy Jasper, lead singer of the 1970s band Condor. Clem’s older brother Simon is a successful Hollywood agent, her younger sister Dena is an environmental activist, married, and a mother. Clem is 27 and just drifting. When Tommy dies suddenly, he leaves Simon his guitars, Dena a Matisse painting, and their mother everything else. Clem gets a document folder containing a numbered series of sealed letters. In the first letter, she learns that her father wants her to take a road trip around California, opening each successive letter in a designated location that has something to do with his past. As he tells her in the first letter, “This is a cosmic path I want to share.” Ignoring advice from her close-knit family, Clem decides to make the trip by herself, and sets out from Los Angeles, through the Central Valley, to San Francisco, and back down the coast. At each stop, she learns something about her father, and, ultimately, about herself. Nothing terribly startling happens in this debut novel, but Clem is an appealing narrator with a terrific and distinctive voice, and her observations about the various locales in California are snarky and spot-on. Tommy’s letters to Clem are kooky and touching, her family is supportive, and the people Clem meets along the way are a real cross-section of California. Although she is in her late 20s, Clem’s journey to understand her family and herself is very much one that older teens will appreciate.—Sarah Flowers, formerly of Santa Clara County (CA) Library
Filed under: Contemporary Fiction
About Mark Flowers
Mark Flowers is the Young Adult Librarian at the John F. Kennedy Library in Vallejo, CA. He reviews for a variety of library journals and blogs and recently contributed a chapter to The Complete Summer Reading Program Manual: From Planning to Evaluation (YALSA, 2012). Contact him via Twitter @droogmark
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