Friday, June 4, 2010

Review of As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

Perkins, Lynne Rae. As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth. Greenwillow, 2010.

15-year-old Ry is on a train heading to summer camp. The train stops in the middle of Nowhere, Montana for no apparent reason. Ry gets off to stretch his legs and try for better cell phone reception, leaving his backpack on the train. Train leaves. Oops!

This book could be called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles (and Small Boats), because these are the various transportation methods Ry uses to try to get home again. Like all great road stories, this isn't about home itself but about the journey to get there. After all, when Ry finally does reach home (a brand-new home, to which his family has just moved), he discovers that no one is there, and so he must set off on yet another journey to round up some family members. No, this story is about being away from home, and the folks you meet and the things you see and learn while out in the big world.

Just about every character in this book is more or less lost and looking for home (or someone to call home). Ry's grandpa is having his own bewildering adventure, caused by a nasty bump on the head he incurred while walking Ry's dogs. The dogs, meanwhile, go home to find help - but then remember that they actually used to live in a different place, so they set off for their old home, hoping to find their humans there. Naturally, they're soon lost themselves, and their story is told comic-book style. Ry's parents are having some misadventures in the Caribbean, where their lack of set itinerary means that Ry can't reach them by cell phone. And even Del, the mellow, stubborn fix-it man and jack-of-all-trades with whom Ry travels, is a bit lost, though his heart's compass keeps pointing toward a certain woman on a certain small island.

What have we got between all these stories of lost souls who can't quite seem to connect with each other? There are strange characters (Carl, the half-blind man with numb legs who loves to drive stolen cars), hair-raising adventure (the episode involving Carl being a good example, but if you need another, try the duct-taped homemade airplane or the sinking sailboat), romance (Del and his gal), two fabulous dogs, and a narrative style rich with humor and fresh with quirk.

In short, this was one hugely entertaining read from start to finish. It's one of my faves of the year so far, breezy but also full of intriguing ideas about our relationships with people and places. That this is the experience of a lifetime for Ry is unmistakeable. That he'll always savor it, but be more than ready to move on and experience more of life is certain as well.

Highly recommended for ages 12 to 16.


  1. I keep reading good things about this one--I'll have to get a hold of it!

  2. Great minds think alike clearly --- my review of this is in this weekend's NYTimes Book Review.

  3. GReat review, Monica! I just finished Sachar's The Cardturner but haven't yet written my review - and of course there's this wonderful review by Sonja Bolles in the LA Times this morning - and I almost feel like just linking to hers and calling it a day. (good thing I didn't see your review of the Perkins before I wrote mine or I'd be completely demoralized...)