In the habit of running through the obstacle course at nearby Annapolis, fifteen-year-old Ray Poole is discovered, sent to prep school, and headed for Annapolis, until a twist of fate changes his course. 35,000 first printing. $35,000 ad/promo.
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Episodic coming-of-age tale from Freedman, here showing little of the flair for high melodrama that marked his robust literary debut, Against the Wind (1991). The title refers not only to the obstacle course at the Naval Academy at Annapolis that narrator Ray Poole, 15, likes to sneak onto during the winter of 1957, but also to the barricades to happiness that he must leap on his way to manhood--starting with his family (womanizing dad; abused mom) and their barren life in the white-trash town of Ravensburg, Maryland. Like his friends, Ray is tough, quick with his fists, and not adverse to stealing to support his passion: the building of elaborate ship models, his way of sustaining his dream of going to Annapolis. The dream begins to look possible when, at a hobby store, Ray meets a retired admiral who shares his love of models. The admiral takes the bright if wayward boy under his wing, introduces him to Navy brass (and a lovelorn Navy brat), then gets him into a military prep school. But life deals a hard lesson about human nature and class realities when, after the theft of a figurine at the admiral's house, the admiral spurns the accused Ray rather than name the real thief, a kleptomaniac old friend; and the lesson is fortified as Ray is twice treated well by the generally despised blacks--first by a whore to whom he loses his virginity, then by a church congregation that takes him in after the boy, despairing, has ridden the rails into the Deep South. At story's end, Ray--battered but wiser--is back running the Annapolis obstacle course, his future a mystery ready to unfold. Ray's an appealingly spunky creation, but his adventures feel contrived--as if he's not living a life but being hustled through his paces toward Meaning by Coach Freedman. (First printing of 35,000) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Set in southern Maryland during the first three months of 1957, this excellent novel by the author of Against the Wind is a first-person narrative by 14-year-old Roy Poole, who runs the obstacle course at nearby Annapolis and hopes to become a midshipman. But his father is an alcoholic, his mother a non-presence in the household and his grades are low--deliberately so, because kids with good grades are ostracized in Roy's peer-pressured world. A chance meeting with a retired admiral gives Roy the opportunity to realize his dream of attending Annapolis, but neither his peers nor his elders believe that he can rise above their preconceptions about him. Not looking forward to an existence like that of his family and friends, keenly aware of how out of place he is in any better life, Roy is an authentic adolescent: confused, eager, honest and alive. Freedman nails the teenage state of mind, for which being humiliated in math class or laughed at by friends is nothing less than the end of the world, and tells a wonderfully truthful tale about youthful choice and change, examining how each is controlled by adults. Readers can't help but care for the appealing main character, root for him and wonder what kind of an adult he will be. 35,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild selection; author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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