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Life at These Speeds [Library Binding]

Jeremy Jackson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 2008 1435229746 978-1435229747 Reprint
In eighth grade Kevin Schuler is a popular kid with a decent, if not stellar, record on the track. Yet after fate takes him off a bus that crashes and kills his fellow students, including his girlfriend, Kevin inexplicably becomes a track phenomenon. Separated from his memory and distanced from his own life, he effortlessly smashes records and gains national attention, until he finds that he can no more remain apart from himself than he can from the ground beneath his feet.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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From Publishers Weekly

The narrator of Jackson's debut novel is Kevin Schuler, an eighth grader from a small Missouri town; he's popular, athletic and dates the cutest girl in school. But his life is shattered when the van carrying most of his friends home from a track meet skids into the river and all on board are killed. From that moment on, Kevin is transformed: he transfers to a different school, becomes a track prodigy and struggles with repressed memories of his dead friends. His success attracts a lot of attention from doctors, school administrators, girls and he becomes a local sensation, though not everyone's interest in his progress is entirely ethical. The events of the novel take on a slightly surreal cast from the boy's skewed perspective, which lies somewhere between damaged adolescent, reluctant hero and ironic sage. This confusion is compounded by the incongruously sophisticated first-person narration Kevin possesses the vocabulary and insight of a Ph.D. candidate (his first impression of his coach is that the older man "exuded a languidness I imagined arose from sexual experience"). Kevin's family and friends, who help him through his crisis, are portrayed rather flatly, despite their often bizarre names (Bobolink Crustacean, Umber Porphorhessohln), though one exception is Andanda Dane, the school newspaper editor who carries a torch for Kevin. Despite (or perhaps because of) its flaws, this debut has an undeniably quirky charm; it will be interesting to see what Jackson does next.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

When the school van veers off a bridge and plunges into the river below, everyone on the track team is killed except star Kevin Schuler, who rode home with his parents that evening. Repressing almost all memory of that season, Kevin begins high school in a different district, where he remains isolated from other students and teammates. Claiming he hates running, the star athlete nonetheless finds peace in it, losing himself in concentration when he runs. As Kevin sets more records and becomes locally famous, the clouds that hang over him take on new forms and he must successfully navigate his own course through all the noise of the outside world, dodging those who would tempt him in different directions. Jackson's first novel presents an unpredictable and unique protagonist who defies categorization. The first-person narration provides a glimpse into Schuler's mind, yet the voice is detached enough that he remains almost as much a mystery to the reader as to other characters. The unforgettable and complex main character makes this novel well worth reading. Gavin Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
In a manner reminscent of Bernard Malamud's "The Natural," Jeremy Jackson's somber debut novel, "Life at These Speeds" interprets the darker side of the American success myth through the lens of competitive athletics. Where Malamud indicts hypocrisy and greed in the all-American sport of baseball, Jackson explores the troubled aspects of individual motivation, excellence and isolation in the less-acclaimed activity of long-distance running. Jackson's troubled, conflicted protagonist, Kevin Schuler, discovers speed after a devastating accident claims the life of many of his teammates and girlfriend, but he discovers neither solace or satisfaction from his sudden, unbidden prowess. "Life" reveals a tormented soul alienated and removed from hinmself, disdaining recognition but yearning for understanding and acceptance.
After learning of the demise of his friends and girlfriend, Kevin literally runs from his pain. Numbed by anguish and horrified by his own lack of affect, Kevin seeks solace in running. Rigorous individual routines only serve to reinforce his sense of guilt and indirect responsibility. Records melt under his fleet feet, but he hears only silence as he attains what appears to be a state of grace on the track. Throughout high school, Kevin's letter jacket gains pounds as a result of his medals, trinkets that only serve to weigh him down spiritually. His repeated astonishing victories, some earned despite vicious opponents and his own disdain for transcendence, ironically defeat his quest for self-understanding, tolerance and forgiveness.
Jackson is not content with merely exploring atheltics' false claims of redemption and personal transformation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars In Good Hands with Jackson March 20 2003
It's exciting to come across a first novel as good as this one, to get in at the beginning of an author's career and have a shot at developing a relationship with him as he develops--maybe someday you'll be able to brag about it in the same way people brag about going to see Springsteen when he was still an unknown, though I hope I never turn out to be that boring. There aren't many young authors on my list of people to watch, but Jackson is one. I don't recall that his novel got much buzz when it was published, not like the decidedly hip "Prague" and "Everything's Illuminated," for instance. The style and subject matter of LIFE AT THESE SPEEDS does not lend itself to any sort of hip marketing hook that flatters pseudointellectual readers who use books as accessories to reinforce their hipness, I suppose. Instead, it's a book for readers. It is a coming-of-age novel, but it defies the formula with its unself-consciousness and avoidance of cliches, and it both honors and expands the genre. The flirtation with surrealism--in the choice of characters' names, for instance--maybe doesn't add much to the novel, and some of the absurd Helleresque encounters between Kevin and adults in the novel don't fully work, but I don't agree with some readers' and reviewers' objections that the narrator's voice and the dialog of his classmates are unrealistic because they sound too grown up to be an adolescent. Without being too reductive, I hope, I think that part of the author's intent is to bring an eloquence of expression to adolescence that will be recognizable to adult readers--i.e., in effect to translate adolescence into adult language. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Eloquently sad March 4 2003
Kevin Schuler, an eighth grader in rural Missouri, is at a track meet with his team. At the end of the evening, he returns home in his family's car, but the rest of the team takes the school van, only to slide off a bridge into a river. Kevin alone lives. Kevin alone goes on to enter high school, insisting he no longer wants to run but becoming a record-breaking runner. Although he's suppressed the memories and even the names of his friends, they come back to him slowly, in pieces. Although he does not care about his success, although he watches life from the sidelines and passes the people in his world off with a certain tongue-in-cheek sadness, they are still drawn to him, though not necessarily for the right reasons.
LIFE AT THESE SPEEDS is undeniably well written. While perhaps not realistic (he is much too mature for his age), Kevin is an interesting narrator. I enjoyed the way he favored no one and viewed most of those around him as a sad joke. Jeremy Jackson's use of language is both eloquent and effective. The plot, however, seemed stretched thin overall and without clear direction, meandering unfettered through one boy's tortured life. This is not necessarily bad, but some readers (like me) may at times lose interest. And while the insights presented are captivating, they do not always ring true.
The descriptions of Kevin's races are taut and laced with ellusive tension, but readers interested in serious track and running may also be disappointed. LIFE AT THESE SPEEDS is first and foremost a poignant, dreamlike coming-of-age novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Life at These Speeds
I love this book. It is about a boy who is hurt when his friends die in an accident on the way home from a track meet. Read more
Published on April 20 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars You Got To Read This Book!
If you would like to read a fantastic book read "Life at Theses Speeds." It's about an average teenage boy named Kevin Schuler who became a famous track and cross country runner. Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2003 by a student
4.0 out of 5 stars Runner's world
I really did like this book! I ran High School track and cross country and understand the bonds you form with the people on your team. Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2003 by Rebecca
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I was skimming through some books at my school library when i came across this book at first glance and thumbing through a few pages it didnt seem that interesting but i figured... Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2003 by "robbiero"
5.0 out of 5 stars From a Dad Whose 8th Grade Son Has Just Won His 1st CC Meet
I bought this book for my son--but decided to read it first. I may have a wait a year or two before I give it to him. Kevin's story is provocative and haunting. Read more
Published on Oct. 1 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a great running book--a great book
I don't run; the only situation in which I could conceive myself running would be if, say, Denise Richards were nearby. And she could probably run faster than me anyway. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2003 by garsky
1.0 out of 5 stars good and bad
A relatively interesting story, but I must admit the initial chapter or 2 is so profanity laden that my wife has told me that this book must leave the house after I finish. Read more
Published on Jan. 13 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Speed of Life
Jeremy Jackson does an amazing job of bringing the reader into his novel. I would find it unimagineable to believe that there is a person who can't feel in some way connected to... Read more
Published on Dec 21 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the greatest running novel, but decent.
The opening of the book focuses so much on Kevin's little actions, his drug use, his girlfriend, but this quickly gets lost for the rest of the novel. Read more
Published on Nov. 22 2002 by metros232
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST BOOK I've read this year - deserves SIX stars!
I have never been a runner, an adolescent boy, or a resident of rural Missouri -- and I could not put this book down. Read more
Published on Nov. 2 2002 by I_Love_To_Read
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