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But Harley still has a conscience--barely. He doesn't strike his sisters; he's been trying to protect them. The oldest is sassy Amber, 16, who's having sex on the living-room couch with townies who abuse her; next is frighteningly stoic 12-year-old Misty, with eyes "a glazed brown like a medicine bottle"; the youngest is adorable Jody, who at 6 pens to-do lists with items such as "PRAY FOR DADDYS SOWL." Overburdened with the practicalities of life, and the ever-mounting losses, Harley has started seeing his own words floating in the air in front of his face. "CLOSURE. TRUTH. MOST GUYS."
This first novel opens well. O'Dell does an impeccable job of making Harley both brutal and forgivable. Here, for instance, he retreats to his basement room: "I lay there until dawn, thinking about Dad, and feeling the same useless frustration I had felt the first time I had seen him piss on a sparkling white drift of pure new snow."
But that delicacy is soon lost, and Back Roads risks becoming an overabundant affair, pitched high, with a roller-coaster trajectory. Harley's anger metamorphoses into an almost bloodthirsty lust for his sexy, middle-aged neighbor, which stirs up myriad forbidden family secrets. Misty, it turns out, has been hiding something. Amber revolts. And even Jody's scribbles turn malevolent. While the writing is good throughout, the tension and plotting assume an unpleasant adolescent posture--bodice-ripping passion and mordant gloom combined. Nonetheless, O'Dell's assured and touching portrait of her protagonist emerges unscathed. You will likely remember luckless, fated Harley Altmyer long after his tsunamic tale has receded. And no matter what the judge decides, you will understand why this impoverished, angry young man was probably the most innocent one of all. --Jean Lenihan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I recently read this book, and I was dissapointed. I saw that is was part of Oprah's book club, so i took a chance and decided to read it. Read morePublished on Aug. 27 2004 by Rachel
I have worked with Emotionally Disturbed teenagers as an English teacher for 10 years. In that time, I have heard stories of abuse that are so disturbing I thought nothing could... Read morePublished on July 13 2004
I enjoyed Back Roads, and while I was reading it, I found I could barely put it down. Tawni O'Dell tells the story of a troubled young man forced to be an adult too soon. Read morePublished on Aug. 25 2003 by pitredish
Back Roads, by Tawni O'Dell, was a great book. I thought that Harvey, the main character, was the best character I have read about in a long time. Read morePublished on May 27 2003 by Bridget
The author IS the protaganist in this sick story of incest, violence and murder. The reader is artfully allowed inside Ms O'Dell's mind as she lays bare the desperation of a... Read morePublished on April 18 2003
I loved how the characters past experiences were explained while they lived and struggled day to day. Tawni writes in a way that flows like a river, not confusing at all. Read morePublished on March 11 2003 by Melissa Mai
I started reading this book as soon as I received it and found that I liked the characters in it so much that I couldn't put it down. Read morePublished on Feb. 18 2003 by Sherry P.