100 Sideways Miles

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
100 Sideways Miles Book Poster Image
Fabulous, thought-provoking tale about a boy with epilepsy.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about historical events such as the 1928 collapse of the St. Francis Dam in San Francisquito Canyon. The dam's creation and catastrophic collapse is explained, as is the aftermath and why it's considered one of civil engineering's (and in particular William Mulholland's) greatest failures. Readers also will learn about epilepsy and heterochromia (having different-colored eyes). 100 Sideways Miles, as with all of Smith's novels, teaches readers about philosophy, life, sex, death, and friendship.

Positive Messages

What is the difference between lust and love? What does it mean to be a survivor? How does fiction mirror life? What does being a best friend mean? These are the questions author Andrew Smith explores in 100 Sideways Miles.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Finn is a thoughtful guy who deeply loves his family, best friend, and girlfriend. Cade is a great best friend to Finn, and vice versa. They support and look out for each other throughout the entire book, and they act courageously when they encounter a family in dire circumstances. Julia's a loving, caring girlfriend who wants Finn to see he's so much more than a guy with epilepsy whose father is a bestselling author.

Violence

A girl discusses her date rape and how it forced her to want to move far away from home. Finn details the sometimes violent or embarrassing details of his seizures, which occasionally require medical attention. A convict's prison death is mentioned. A historical dam break causes hundreds of deaths, and a boy and his grandfather nearly drown before being rescued.

Sex

Finn thinks about sex a lot and about how inexperienced he is, whereas his best friend is a real Casanova who has plenty of sexual experiences and talks at great length about his prowess, a girlfriend's ability at performing a particular sexual act, and how he's had sex with a married woman and an older girl. But at least he talks about the importance of having protected sex, and Finn is honest with himself about feeling too insecure and young to have sex with a girl, even if he loves her. The central couple does make out; they touch each other but don't have sex. Finn recognizes the difference between instant lust and actually falling in love.

Language

As Finn explains (and apologizes for), he curses a lot right after an epileptic seizure, and his best friend Cade casually uses strong language, mostly "f--k," "a--hole," "s--t," and "dick."

Consumerism

Julia drives a Ford Mustang, but otherwise there are no notable mentions of specific makes, models, or brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cade drinks a lot and gets so drunk he "pukes over everything" in someone's room. He can finish a six-pack of beer all by himself. Finn also drinks but much less than Cade. Finn makes references to teens smoking cigarettes, drinking, and smoking weed at parties, but he's usually too concerned with his epilepsy to get purposely wasted like Cade.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 100 Sideways Miles is the latest coming-of-age story from award-winning author Andrew Smith. Once again, Smith explores issues of friendship, storytelling, love, sex, and the meaning in life in a way that should appeal to both male and female readers. As with Smith's two previous novels, Winger and Grasshopper Jungle,100 Sideways Miles follows a smart, sensitive guy who's preoccupied with his place in the world in regards to his unique family, history, and condition (the main character is an epileptic with heterochromatic eyes). Characters have sex and drink, but the consequences of irresponsibly indulging in both are discussed at length. Although the book includes mature themes, upsetting issues (death, rape, seizures), and strong language, this is precisely the kind of smart, thought-provoking story that teens will not only enjoy but also keep thinking about after they're done reading.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byeden1 October 7, 2014

Amazing contemporary fiction for boys.

Finn Easton is a 16 year-old boy living in the middle of no-where, California. Finn never tells anyone how he really feels. He is very good at just "being... Continue reading
Adult Written bydrgnmyst March 5, 2015

Way too much swearing!

The F word in one variation or another appears at least 10 times in the first 47 pages, with lots of others thrown in for good measure. I think there must have... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bytwistedlover123 November 30, 2014
Pretty Interesting Book. I have to say I laughed many times reading this. It gave me a very good insight of epileptic kids. The characters were so well develope... Continue reading

What's the story?

Finn Easton is not your typical rich California teen: He has heterochromatic eyes (one green, one blue); he sees the world in terms of distance traveled through space instead of time (so a second is 20 miles); and, when he was a young boy, his mother died and he was left epileptic after a horse fell 100 SIDEWAYS MILES off a bridge and crushed both of them. Most intriguingly, Finn's father is a best-selling author who wrote a massively popular alien-invasion book inspired by Finn's eyes and the scar the falling horse left on his back. Most of the time, Finn lives vicariously through his clever, charismatic, and sexually experienced best friend Cade Hernandez, but when the gorgeous and observant Julia Bishop shows up at their high school, Finn finally realizes he can be the protagonist of his own story, not only the epileptic boy whose father immortalized him in a sci-fi novel.

Is it any good?

Andrew Smith is a phenomenal author who's among the best writers of male adolescence in contemporary literature. Yes, he's that good. He captures the ethos of teen boyhood -- pimples, pranks, penis jokes, and all -- and adds in the deep and mind-boggling ways young adults and not-quite-men question the marvels of the universe, starting with their own strange histories. Finn is tired of being the "boy in the book," particularly when that book is about alien invaders who want to rape and eat people (but that's his dad's crazy story, not his). What Finn wants is to hang out with Cade, and once he meets Julia, he just wants to be with her, kiss her, and think about being with and kissing her. But no matter how hard Finn tries, he can't stop thinking about the fateful day a horse headed to a knackery (rendering plant) killed his mom and changed his life.

Finn's quirky journey of self-discovery is not for every reader, particularly those who just want escapist romances or definable genre stories. Nothing about Smith's books is superficial or easy to describe. And that's more than fine, because Smith is a stellar wordsmith who gets that the same 16-year-old guy who cracks up at his best friend's elaborate pranks and obsesses about the indignity of never having kissed a girl also can describe his seizures as a beautiful emptying of words and the inevitability of death as "the knackery never shuts down." Smith provides his readers with another pivotal father-son relationship, one in which the father and son truly know, respect, and love each other, even when ugly, regrettable teen words are spoken. He also portrays young love as more than a lust-fueled (although, yes, there is lust, too) endeavor but as a meeting of open minds and tender hearts. Few authors can make you think, laugh, and cry all at once, but Smith can and does with every one of his novels.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Finn and Cade's friendship as a driving force in the story. Why are so many memorable best friends in young adult literature "opposites"? What's the appeal of friends who aren't anything alike?

  • How does Smith weave history, philosophy, and literature into this story? What do you think it would be like to have an author for a parent? Why is Finn's father apologetic about the character his son inspired? How does Finn deal with his father's book?

  • Talk about how sex (having it or not having it) is depicted in 100 Sideways Miles. How do Finn and Cade approach sex differently? Why do you think one remains a virgin despite having a girlfriend and the other has casual sexual experiences? Talk about the significant role of sex in the story and in young adult literature. Is reading about sex different from watching depictions of it on TV or in movies?

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