Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Niagara Motel

Niagara Motel by Ashley Little
Arsenal Pulp Press: 11/15/16
eBook review copy; 296 pages
ISBN-13: 9781551526607

Niagara Motel by Ashley Little is a quirky, sometimes heartbreaking, but strangely charming story of an eleven-year-old boy set in1992. It's highly recommended.

Tucker Malone, 11, is the only child of Gina, an unreliable narcoleptic mother whose occupation is stripper and, occasionally, escort. For his whole life, the pair has been moving constantly from one place to another in Canada. After making their way to Niagara Falls, they stay at the run-down Niagara Motel. Gina is sure this will be her big break - until she falls asleep in the street and is hit by a car. Tucker manages to find her at the hospital, but, due to Gina's long recovery for her injuries, he is put into Bright Light, a group home for teens - the only place that has room for him.

There he meets Meredith, a pregnant 16 year-old. The two decide to secretly go on a road trip to Boston to find Tucker's father. Tucker believes that Sam Malone, the bar tender on Cheers, is his father; obviously, this is not true. Then, after the car they "borrowed" breaks down, the two decide to hitchhike to California to meet Ted Danson, the actor who plays Sam Malone. Their travels put them in contact with a motley group of people, many of whom you'd recognize as infamous during this time period. They arrive in Los Angeles just as the Rodney King riots are unfolding.

The story is written through Tucker's point-of-view in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner that is indicative of a preteen boy. Tucker is a great character, positive, and accepting, despite the struggles he has encountered in his life. His inner strength is resolute. His cherished possessions are in a shoe box. He and his mom travel light. His beloved little plastic dog broke my heart (I teared up just typing this). The ending is a bit unbelievable, but so is his road trip in general, so I just rolled with it.

There is something in this novel that just appealed to me. It is well-written, well-paced and compelling. I like Tucker. Little had me caring about Tucker and wishing the best for him. The people he meets on his trip are a bizarre assortment of characters that you should recognize, many for their future evil deeds. Tucker's firm belief that he can find his father is touching. The end of the book, during the riots, is horrifically violent.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.

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