Niagara Motel

Writing in the voice of a child is a tricky and perilous thing. It's also something Ashley Little (Anatomy of a Girl Gang, Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize winner) knocks clean out of the park in Niagara Motel; readers will fall madly in love with Tucker Malone. It's no surprise Tucker is wiser and more world-weary than any 11-year-old should be: his mother, Gina, is a peripatetic, narcoleptic stripper. Yet Little brilliantly blends Tucker's street smarts with his innocence, and his voice never feels anything but authentic.

When Gina's narcolepsy leads to tragedy, Tucker is forced to leave their current residence, the Niagara Motel, to stay at Bright Light, a home for older, troubled kids. A boy forced to deal with a grown-up situation under less-than-stellar circumstances, all Tucker wants to do is find the man he believes to be his father--Sam Malone from the television sitcom Cheers.

Tucker is drawn to fellow housemate Meredith, 16 and pregnant. "We were a strange match as far as friends go, but magnets don't need to understand how magnetism works; they just repel each other or stick together." Stick together this odd duo does, through life's dramas and one of the more fascinating road trips ever. The journey is so wildly inventive it's almost distracting (in the best of ways; go in blind and have Google handy), but the strength of Little's characters and dialogue ensure the story never loses its focus or heart--the inimitable Tucker Malone. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

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