Sixteen year-old Alex Riley’s top priorities in life are to find his long-absent father and a girl with a decent set of breasts. But his mother has a knack for sabotaging his plans. To advance her political career, she takes in an elderly black man named Lester Bray. Lester arrives with a vintage Cadillac and an old man's personality. It takes only a week for Alex's mother to ask Lester to leave. That makes Alex angry. On the morning of his eviction, Lester and Alex set out on a road trip ostensibly to find the boy's father in Ft. Lauderdale. But the two don't just head south. They also cross through un-navigated political, racial, and personal territory. A wild ride, Cadillac Chronicles explores what it means to—finally—find a real friend.
Brett Hartman lived an unremarkable life in Fort Lauderdale until May 18, 1983, when he was arrested for aggravated battery. While away at Auburn University, he suffered a psychotic breakdown and months of intensive treatment. Though he made a full recovery, the events of that period never left him. He continued his education at Indiana State, where he received a doctorate in clinical psychology; he has worked as a psychologist ever since. His memoir Hammerhead 84 covers his journey through the mental health industry. Cadillac Chronicles is his debut novel. He lives in Albany, New York, with his wife and their two sons.
Hartman, author of the memoir Hammerhead 84, makes his YA debut with a hard-hitting road trip novel that s unafraid to show the ugly sides of American life. Sixteen-year-old Alex has nothing but contempt for his politically calculating (and two-dimensionally callous) mother, and when she reneges on an offer to house an elderly black man named Lester after just a few days, Alex and straight-shooting Lester skip town, driving from New York State to Florida to find the father Alex never knew. Hartman doesn t tiptoe around either Alex s virility (he notices every pair of breasts that passes before his eyes and loses his virginity in a graphic sex scene) or Lester s infirmity (including the need for frequent pit stops, not always in time). He also doesn t miss a chance to describe characters physicality in blunt, even cruel terms (Lester s morbidly obese sister could have strung together a couple of mop buckets for a bra ). A cynical outlook underlies Hartman s story, though the self-knowledge and maturity Alex gains during his travels leave room for hope. Ages 13 up.