Cadillac Chronicles



By: Brett Hartman

A Cadillac takes an ornery old black man and an angry white teenager down a road neither has traveled before.

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Categories: All Books | Fiction | Young Adult

Description

A Cadillac takes an ornery old black man and an angry white teenager down a road neither has traveled before.


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 Fort 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.


Learn more about Brett at his website. And check out this great interview he did with Kory French at Book Talk.

8 reviews for Cadillac Chronicles

  1. School Library Journal
    “Hartman’s effort is fresh and gritty…The mix of humor, gravity, and angst will keep readers engaged, and this debut novel has enough of all three elements to appeal to reluctant and eager male readers alike.
    Alex Riley is friendless and spends most of his time drawing, ogling girls’ breasts, or imagining his absent father’s reentrance or metaphysical guidance in his life. His mother’s sole focus is climbing the political ladder in Albany, New York. Thus, she allows an elderly African American man, Lester Bray, to live in their home, but this inauthentic gesture of goodwill is short-lived. After Alex’s 16th birthday and a few unsavory comments by Lester, she tells him that he must find another place to stay. Having enough of his mother’s antics, Alex convinces him that they should skip town and drive to Fort Lauderdale in Lester’s pristine Cadillac Deville so that Alex can see his father and then go on to Alabama, where Lester can visit his sister. During the trip Alex learns to drive, reconnects with his father, somewhat graphically loses his virginity, and pledges to become a stronger person. While the story of a teen meeting and learning from an elderly adult of a different ethnicity has been done before, Hartman’s effort is fresh and gritty. There are some odd moments in the plot, such as Alex stumbling upon a homeless woman with a cell phone and calling his mother to ask if his father is gay, but overall it is well woven. The mix of humor, gravity, and angst will keep readers engaged, and this debut novel has enough of all three elements to appeal to reluctant and eager male readers alike.”

  2. Kirkus Review
    “Angry, just-turned-16-year-old Alex, a white boy, and equally angry but very old Lester, a black man, are unlikely road-trip buddies in this novel that transcends its conventions…Alex learns to drive, comes to understand a little of the hard truth of race in post–Civil Rights–era America and spectacularly loses his virginity in a scene that will surprise readers as much as Alex…If there’s little doubt about the end of the trip, readers will be happy they’ve gone along for the ride.
    Angry, just-turned-16-year-old Alex, a white boy, and equally angry but very old Lester, a black man, are unlikely road-trip buddies in this novel that transcends its conventions.
    The cross-generational road trip is a familiar trope; so is the life-changing cross-racial relationship. Where this book that combines the two stands out is in its refusal to make Lester simply a tool for Alex’s coming of age. While Lester initially seems to conform to many of the stereotypes, he is, as Alex learns, nevertheless entirely an individual, one who hates his age-inflicted vulnerability with bullheaded passion. They come together—unwillingly—when Alex’s frankly odious, local-politician mother takes Lester in to make herself look good. In fairly short order, though, they find themselves on the run together in Lester’s Cadillac, on their way to, first, Florida to find the father Alex has never known and then to Alabama, to visit the sister Lester hasn’t seen in years. Lester counsels him: “[W]hen you commit to a course of action, don’t hesitate. Don’t limp-dick yourself into a hole.” Accordingly, Alex learns to drive, comes to understand a little of the hard truth of race in post–Civil Rights–era America and spectacularly loses his virginity in a scene that will surprise readers as much as Alex.
    If there’s little doubt about the end of the trip, readers will be happy they’ve gone along for the ride. (Fiction. 14 & up)”

  3. Albany Times-Union
    “This road-trip novel is full of humor and surprises that make it a delightful read for teenage boys and many girls as well.”—Lyn Miller-Lachmann

  4. Bookworks Independent Bookstore
    “Lester and Alex from Cadillac Chronicles are going to live in my literary memory for a long, long time. I think they are two of most likable folks to come along in young adult books for awhile.”—Connie Griffin

  5. Publishers Weekly
    “Hartman…makes his YA debut with a hard-hitting road trip novel that’s unafraid to show the ugly sides of American life… the self-knowledge and maturity Alex gains during his travels leave room for hope.”

  6. Examiners.com
    Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman is, on the surface, a journey by car to the South. But it is much, much more. It is a story of growing up. It’s about growing old. It’s about family. It’s about loyalty. And most of all, it’s about friendship … What makes this book such an engrossing read is the relationship between the young, angry, insecure Alex and the old, sick, angry Lester. But be forewarned, the book is not for the squeamish. There is a lot of profanity. There is sex and there are many references to young men’s ability to form instant erections. To most, these references will just serve to make the book more authentic.”—Pamela Kramer

  7. Midwest Book Review
    Cadillac Chronicles is a fine addition to young adult fiction collections, a solid coming-of-age story, highly recommended.”

  8. Reading Today Online
    “Teen readers will look forward to the next title from this author who balances humor and pathos so skillfully.”

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