Chad Gibbons and his best friend, Gary Lee Dillanger, have worked their way through the ranks of competitive go-karting with the legendary Kilgore racing family in Blue Springs, Alabama. Monroe Kilgore and his wife Uma see their world very differently, and Uma is haunted by it. Chad is pursuing the opportunity of his lifetime to become a professional auto racer, but the fast and luxurious world of racing is not as it appears. The boys are ready to graduate from high school when tragedy strikes, and Chad is left to find his own way. Elle Dillanger struggles with criminal charges against her son, Gary Lee, and the truth about his tragic accident unfolds as he recovers. Tragedy, love, and unintended consequences change everything in this story of loss and new beginnings. This book has universal appeal for all audiences. The story shares from multiple viewpoints the personal challenges of finding one's path, overcoming grief, and discovering love. It is a great read for a weekend, a book club, or a high school class.
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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Wheelboys is the debut, coming-of-age novel by Dd Jaseron set around the world of small-town karting and the dreams of adults and children alike as they imagine a life of professional racing stretching ahead of them. Chad and Gary-Lee had grown up together in Blue Springs, Alabama, united in their friendship by their love of karting. Guiding the local wheelboys’ dreams is the notable family of professional racers who live in a mansion above Blue Springs and have their fingers in every pie around the town and the state, exploiting the keen young karters for their own financial gain and prestige. Although both boys had dreamed of a career in the high-powered world of professional car racing, all dreams were put away after one tragic weekend, just before the pair would graduate from high school. Both boys must face their uncertain futures and deal with the competing egos of the many adults that wanted to have a stake in their future directions. For Chad, especially, the decision of a future direction is complicated by the appearance in his life of a beautiful young kart racer from Texas.
What I particularly liked about Wheelboys was that it addressed the many issues that often get glossed over in these coming-of-age novels. Author Dd Jaseron was not afraid to question the adults' motivations as they tried to impress their own dreams and desires on the young people and how many adults were prepared to ruthlessly use young people just for their own financial gain under the guise of helping or mentoring them. This has long been an issue in not only sports but education and other aspects of teenage life in general. The characters were realistic, the pain genuine, and the angst of growing up and experiencing young love was explored and dealt with extremely well. The side story of Uma and her family also rang true as Uma beautifully summed up the uncertainty and fears of having a family involved in a very dangerous sport. I felt the author’s style was extremely readable and I was able to get through large chunks of the story in one sitting. This is a book for parents as well as young people. The issues faced by these three families are universal and ones that we all have to confront at various times in our lives. An excellent first novel from a talented author and one I can highly recommend.
I give this novel high marks for the characters and settings, for the ethical problems raised by inculcating the love of speed in youngsters, and especially for the tangle of stories with different points of view. Each chapter deals with a single character’s point of view, and it works very well. Elle is first introduced as the frantic mother whose son is in the ER. Chad then brings the coming-of-age story about two boys/best friends who grew up racing go-karts and dream of making careers in racing. I would have liked more of Elle and Uma in the last half of the book, but the ending was a fantastic culmination of the different story elements. Well done!