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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Diversity in Literature, Middle Grade Readers

CLEAN GETAWAY by Nic Stone

11-year-old Scoob (William) jumps at his grandmother’s invitation to accompany her on a road trip in her new RV. He doesn’t know why or where she’s heading but Scoob is anxious to escape his current grounding and the crushing weight of his father’s disappointment at home. Scoob is increasingly concerned by his G’ma’s demeanor and behavior, slowly realizing there is more on her agenda than a simple road trip.

As they travel his grandmother shares information with Scoob about both her life and his grandfather’s (whom he knows only by reputation). What he learns gives him a new perspective on both their lives. Their history intertwines with the history of the road trip itself, racial tensions and his own family.

I found the pacing and focus of the story somewhat uneven. At times it felt as if the author wasn’t sure which story she wanted to tell: the impact of racial discrimination on the lives of a specific family, the history of the Green Book, a mystery focused on G’ma’s life or a coming-of-age story. My reading experience with Clean Getaway was sometimes one of confusion, rather than cohesion. Perhaps I am looking for a greater cohesion and simplicity within a topic that is ultimately too complicated and interwoven within our culture to distill in that way?

The best part of this story is Scoob, himself. His character is well-developed, has a delightful sense of humor and a tender heart. His struggle to logistically understand what is going on with his grandmother while simultaneously grappling with her new information about his family and how he feels about that is remarkably genuine in both its vulnerability and fortitude.

One aspect I really like about Clean Getaway is the way in which it tackles a young person’s first experiences seeing the adults around him as flawed, fallible humans and having that lead to deeper connections with them, as opposed to complete disillusionment.

My experience with Clean Getaway may have suffered because I just finished Mildred Taylor’s conclusion to the Logan family series (All The Days Past, All The Days To Come) and that packs a pretty strong punch in the area of racial inequality. Clean Getaway has a different (younger) target audience for whom the adventure theme serves to successfully make Scoob’s larger entire story accessible. I think Clean Getaway could be used in a classroom as a read-aloud that could provide excellent springboards for all kinds of important conversations.

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