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Review: How to Steal a Car

March 13, 2010
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Fifteen-year old Kelleigh can’t wait to get her driver’s license, so she drives every chance she gets.  Unfortunately, with her parents, that’s not very often.  When she goes to the mall with her best friend, Jen, and sees a guy drop his car keys without realizing it, she can’t help but take his car for a joy ride.   Kelleigh feels such a thrill from “borrowing” that car, that she can’t help but do it again.

I enjoyed How to Steal a Car by Pete Hautman, but I didn’t love it.  Kelleigh is a typical teen and I liked her in spite of her faults.  I found the story entertaining and wanted to know what was going to happen, but I wanted more from it.  I wanted Kelleigh to learn a lesson or come to a realization about what she was doing.

How to Steal a Car is one of those YA books that leaves you wondering where the parents are.  Kelleigh would be out walking all over town in the middle of the night and no one would notice.  At one point, she took a ride in her mother’s car – and grabbed the keys and took off right in front of her mom.  Sure, her parents were having problems of their own, but that’s no excuse for ignoring their daughter.   Maybe because I am a mom, that bothered me.

Overall, I would say this is a fun book, but one that won’t stick with you in the long run.

Every Saturday, Julie of Booking Mama hosts a feature called Kid Konnection — a (hopefully) regular weekend feature about anything related to children’s books. Click on the logo to go to her site and see more reviews.

Challenges: Books Won Reading Challenge

29 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2010 7:27 am

    Sad thing is…there are plenty of parents out there like this. Working in a middle school for over 10 years I’m still amazed at the lack of involvement. My son Marc loves this author and I don’t think he’s read this one but I’ll have to grab it for him!

  2. March 13, 2010 7:55 am

    That just gives me chills – a teen who doesn’t know how to drive taking out a car. It’s bad enough when they have their licenses, but also want to talk on the cellphone and text at the same time!

  3. March 13, 2010 8:21 am

    My nephew actually did that when he was about 12 (and we don’t even want to get into a discussion about where the mom was!). He ended up wrecking the car and damaging another person’s car as well. Bad stuff. I hope at least that the book emphasizes that this is a bad idea!

  4. March 13, 2010 8:35 am

    I enjoy Kids books and revisiting authors of my childhood. I will have to check out Bookingmama’s Kid Connection.

  5. March 13, 2010 8:37 am

    I had to stop by…was going thru reading my “google reader” and saw the picture of this book. On my way over I am thinking “it just CAN’T be a How-To book.
    Was relieved when I read your review but then thought…how sad and how so very true with our youth of today. I am a cable news junkie and almost on a daily basis, there is some type of repot that something bad has happened to another child. And sadly the majority is due to parental non supervision.
    CMash

  6. stacybuckeye permalink
    March 13, 2010 8:46 am

    A sad story, because, like you, I’d be frustrated with the parents.

  7. March 13, 2010 9:03 am

    Thanks for sharing. I find that lots of YA books don’t mention parental involvement at all. It’s very strange to me too. I find that I gravitate towards the ones where the kids and parents have a good relationship.

  8. March 13, 2010 9:33 am

    And why couldn’t she have been Kelly, without the fancy spelling?

  9. March 13, 2010 10:16 am

    Sounds like a book that’s supposed to be a kind-of coming-of-age story, but turns out to be a fun book? Looks interesting, but like you said, I’d wish there was a lesson or two.

  10. March 13, 2010 10:18 am

    I don’t read too much YA, but I can see how teens might enjoy this book more.

  11. March 13, 2010 10:52 am

    I think there is a high percentage of parents these days who somewhat neglected their children, and are not aware of what’s going on in their children’s lives. Things happen right under their noses and they still have no clue until it’s probably too late.

  12. March 13, 2010 1:02 pm

    Great review, Kathy! This sounds like an interesting book, I love YA books – perhaps because I skipped that whole stage when I was actually that age, or their really wasn’t much in the way of YA when I was that age. In any case, it is sad to see that many YA novels do not have much in the way of parental guidance or participation. I don’t know if it is a type of “escapism” for teens to read about things that perhaps (hopefully, anyway) they would not really do in real life? Either way, I have read a few YA books that I thought were too old for that genre and too mature. I’m sure other would disagree.

  13. March 13, 2010 1:03 pm

    I think the content would bother me a bit. Having teens is hard enough without having to worry that they will start stealing cars because it’s depicted as easy to do.

  14. March 13, 2010 1:09 pm

    A good honest review. I’m not sure I like the values found in this story. It’s not one I’ll be buying for my granddaughter.

  15. March 13, 2010 1:43 pm

    As a mum, I would be bothered by the same things as you. A lot of YA books lately seem to have a lack of parental supervision. I wonder if that is why teenagers enjoy them so much.

  16. March 13, 2010 2:01 pm

    I love reading YA, but I have to agree that the lack of parents angle sometimes wears thin. The only book I have read recently was the ARC called It’s Not Summer Without You, and her mom is very involved, which was nice for a change. But like you, I’m a mom, and I wonder what teens would say about it! I suppose it’s one way to live vicariously through a book and have lots of freedom to have adventures!

  17. March 13, 2010 3:28 pm

    This one isn’t quite my cup of tea, but I’ve read a few of Hautman’s YA mysteries which were quite good.

  18. March 13, 2010 4:46 pm

    I’m glad to hear this isn’t an actual how-to guide 😛

    That’s a pity about the parents. I tend to prefer YA books where they’re actually visible presents in the protagonist’s lives.

  19. March 14, 2010 12:31 am

    I think I would be too mad at her parents to enjoy the book! I can’t imagine my son out wandering the streets and me not knowing where he is!

  20. March 14, 2010 9:15 am

    I like YA books where the kids have some power and independence of their own (I think it’s a wish fulfillment thing), but it does sound like this one went rather too far.

    The child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim said that the value of fairy tales, in which the child slays the dragon or giant on their own, is that it helps them work out their inner parental issues in a “safe” way, in a fantasy world, so that those issues aren’t worked out more dangerously in the real world.

    But I think the value of fairy tales is that the world in which these things are worked out is NOT like the real world, and the parents are there in disguise (giants, dragons, etc). I’m really not sure that a book that’s so much like the real world does the same sort of good.

    Thanks so much for the very thought-provoking review!

  21. March 15, 2010 3:37 am

    I totally get you when you say you find it hard to swallow books where parents don’t have a presence whatsoever. I generally don’t warm to such books at all.

    However, I found an exception to that rule when I read Edith Nesbit’s Five Children and It, which was a really, sweet read

  22. March 15, 2010 1:43 pm

    I think of how many books I read for pure enjoyment. I think when I was a teenager I would have liked reading about characters who didn’t have to worry about their folks, where PARENTS weren’t an issue.

    Unfortunately, it’s also part reality and there are too many uninvolved parents out there, I agree.

  23. March 15, 2010 3:21 pm

    It’s too bad that this book didn’t totally work for you. I, too, am always amazed at most of the parents that populate YA these days. They seem to just let their kids do whatever their little hearts desire, no matter what the consequences are. I liked this review, it was very honest, which I appreciate.

  24. March 15, 2010 4:40 pm

    It seems that MIA parents are some kind of pre-requisite for a YA novel. I did grow up with a girl whose parents were completely neglectful. I remember her telling me she had sex with her boyfriend on the floor while her mom was passed out on the couch from drinking. My heart fell to the floor. I am so happy to know that she has turned out to be a good, attentive mom herself now. So while these parents absolutely do exist out there, I would like to see a book where the parents do care but something happens like they work too much or they are sick or the teen is clever enough or rebellious enough to make things happen anyway. Absentee parents are getting a bit passe in the genre.

  25. March 16, 2010 8:40 am

    This is one of my pet peeves about YA books…where are the parents….they should be in the book…they should be minding their kids…particularly if those kids are roaming the streets and stealing cars.

  26. March 16, 2010 9:11 am

    I think the things you mention in your review would drive me nuts, too, so I think I’ll pass on this one.

    –Anna

  27. March 16, 2010 2:18 pm

    Sounds like an interesting premise, but I think the parents lack of presence would annoy me too much. There are kids like that in our neighborhood out all hours of the night and I just want to grab the parents and shake them!

  28. Machelle permalink
    April 1, 2010 11:00 pm

    I haven’t read the book yet but after reading some of the comments I am reluctant to do so! Although I have read many of Hautman’s books, this one seems to give teens the wrong idea, showing a lack of common sense and responsibility. However, it may encourage teens to read more as the title is catchy and the plot sounds like it would capture there attention. I will have to read the book before giving an unbiased opinion.

  29. May 10, 2010 12:11 pm

    Funny, I’m just about finished reading a book where a 15-y.o. boy does a lot of driving. I’m liking it a notch or so more than you seemed to care for this one though…

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