Fleischman, Paul. Breakout. Chicago: Cricket Books, 2003.
I think Paul Fleischman is a genius. I have been a fan of his since I began working as a librarian in 1997 and read some of his books such as A Fate Totally Worse Than Death and Whirligig. Then I read his Newbery award winning Joyful Noise and realized the man was a genius. He has been experimenting lately with his writing. Last year's Seek was an interesting book. This latest book, Breakout, is similar.
The story is told in alternating chapters, between the past and the present. Del lived in foster homes her whole life, and now she is running away, in a car she just bought. She gets stuck in a fatal car accident on the Santa Monica Freeway that keeps traffic stopped for hours. Del observes the people around her and how they react to the situation and each other being stuck there for hours. Years later she has changed her name and is a performace artists. Every other chapter is her one woman show that describes her afternoon stuck on the Santa Monica Freeway.
I can't decide if I really like this book or not. It did receive a starred review in School Library Journal, which prompted me to buy it. I think this book shows how versatile Fleischman is-- from novels to poetry and now to novels that can be performed. I think it is an interesting book, but I am wondering who the audience is. The average reader will be left scratching their head, I am afraid. I give it 4 stars because it is a great book, but I just have no idea who will like it other than the librarians who are reading it because they purchased it for their libraries. Perhaps Fleischman is losing touch with who his reader is? Or he is only writing for advanced Young Adults and is leaving the rest to read the works of other authors?