The Book Reviews – Website

November 3, 2008

Fastback Beach

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Fastback Beach

Author: Shirlee Smith Matheson

Page Length: 97

Reading Level: 2.9

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Miles has recently been in trouble with the law. On a recent trip to Fastback Beach, he gets into a major accident in a stolen car. His “friends”, Larry and Spider, are also in the same car, however they flee the scene before the police arrive leaving Miles unconscious. As a result of Miles’ actions, he is placed on probation and must perform 100 hours of community service. It is important to note that Miles does not tell the police that Larry and Spider were involved in the car theft.

Miles is to perform his service at a local community association. However, his assignment proves to be a treat. Mr. Barnier, the association’s president, has a love for race cars (as does Miles). Mr. Barnier has a 1937 Ford coupe in his garage that he would like to restore. Miles is excited at the chance to work on such a vehicle.

Excited about his work with Mr. Barnier, Miles tells his friend Larry about the experience. Larry becomes “very interested” in the car. One day, Mr. Barnier’s car turns up stolen and the authorities point to Miles as a likely suspect of the theft – given his past. Miles, determined to do good and make amends for his past, seeks out his “friends” and finds the stolen vehicle. In the end, Miles “rats out” his friends Larry and Spider who are brought to justice.

REVIEW: As with many of the “Orca” books, they were fast-paced, easy-to-read, and enjoyable. Students with high interest in cars would love this book as much of the terminology is geared towards automobile enthusiasts. The theme of friendship and ultimately doing the right thing is presented here in this short story. What makes this story more interesting than most Orca books is that beyond the basic plot line, lies a mixture of sub-plots and flashbacks. Miles’ childhood and past are delved into regarding the relationship between his race car driving father and himself. With Fastback Beach, we see a more complicated character than just a boy who likes to steal cars.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: predictions (page 76), characterization


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

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