Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Reviewed -- TT: Full Throttle, an excellent debut YA novel

I'm not terribly into sports -- it's great if people enjoy playing them, and hey, if you're a passionate sports fan, there are way worse things you could be excited about. But left to my own devices, I don't follow any organized sport beyond having a sense of what's in the headlines. I particularly am not into motorsports. Not a sports fan + environmentalist = some serious apprehensions about watching motor vehicles drive around in a circle.

All of which is to say that I am so not the target audience for TT: Full Throttle, the debut novel by my friend Nicole Winters, set in the world of motorcycle racing and specifically, at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race. A YA novel about motorcycle racing? Yeah, so not my usual thing.

I love this book.

Nicole has achieved something really rare, special and admirable in this, her first published novel -- she has created a window into the world and the passions of a group of very believable characters, and she has done it in a way that makes me, someone who would normally disdain motorcycle racing for all sorts of reasons, deeply interested and invested in the outcome. 

TT: Full Throttle is the story of Scott Saunders, a young man in his early twenties who lives for only one thing -- to race in the annual Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, the TT. Scott comes from a racing family, and planned for years to travel to the Isle of Man with his father for the race. His father's untimely death has changed all that, and now Scott eats, sleeps and breathes the TT, intent on travelling to the Isle with his friend Neil so they can race to honour his dad's memory. 

Scott shares his home with Neil, Mags, a gifted motorcycle mechanic who Scott is attracted to, and Dean, a former juvenile delinquent who Neil has taken under his wing. The story begins as Scott and Neil are moving forward with their training for the TT, but when tragedy strikes again, Scott must decide whether to go ahead or give up on his dream. With the help of his friends, who join him on his journey and act as an ad hoc pic crew, he travels to the Isle of Man. There, however, the pressure mounts as Scott struggles to qualify for the race with limited resources, no sponsorship, and his amateur crew of well-meaning but not always skilled friends. Together, they must all work to rise to these new challenges if Scott's dream is ever to come true.

I'll let you read the book to learn how that works out, and read it you most definitely should. Nicole has a remarkable ear for dialogue, and every single one of her characters pops off the page. Scott, Neil, Mags and Dean are more real to me now than some people I've met in my real life. In the abstract, I don't care much about motorcycle racing, but I care about these people, their struggles, their tragedies and their triumphs, and I was deeply invested in following them on their journey and rooting for them to succeed. 

And if that was my reaction, I can't even imagine how strongly a younger reader, especially one with an interest in sports, would react to this book. This excellent novel is primarily aimed at YA readers, especially boys and reluctant readers generally, but there's plenty going on here to catch and hold the interest of an adult -- even a sports-indifferent one. 

TT: Full Throttle is available from online booksellers everywhere in print and ebook versions. I recommend it unreservedly.


In the interests of full disclosure: I originally posted this on Goodreads -- but a) I'm still figuring out how to integrate Goodreads with the rest of my social media activity and I didn't want this to get lost in the shuffle and b) it's past time for another volley in my Blog! War!!! with Greg Beettam. Mr. Beettam, the ball is in your court now.

And also in the interests of full disclosure: I did mention this in my review, but it merits repeating. Nicole is a friend, and I am in that sense not at all unbiased here. That being said, I think I would love TT: Full Throttle just as much if I didn't know the author at all.

And finally, if you still need convincing, why not check out the book trailer here?

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