On the Road to Find Out

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
On the Road to Find Out Book Poster Image
Inspiring tale of teen who gains perspective by running.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers will learn about running and rats and build their vocabularies as Alice defines SAT words that she weaves into her narration, such as "stipulates" and "utilitarian." Alice's journey through applying to colleges and being rejected could lead to some discussions about plans for graduation. Parents may also want to talk to their kids about the pressures they may feel to perform well at school. 

Positive Messages

Overachiever Alice learns to stop worrying about making mistakes or failing and to instead be open to learning and trying new things. She learns that a meaningful life is about caring about something bigger than yourself, such as other people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alice knows she's self-absorbed and often says the wrong thing. But she slowly learns to be a more thoughtful person who participates in life instead of judging from the sidelines. She also learns to take risks and to be less worried about failing. 

Violence

A beloved pet dies.

Sex

Alice says she doesn't want to start college as a virgin, but she has very little experience. Her best friend Jenni has a boyfriend Alice doesn't like. At a school dance in eighth grade, a boy got an erection while slow dancing with Alice. During her senior year, Alice meets a boy she likes, and they share her first kiss.

Language

A few uses of words such as "God," "crap," and "ass." There also are two uses of "s--t."

Consumerism

Some junk food is mentioned, such as Easy Mac, Peanut M&M's, Mini Chips Ahoy, Mini Oreos, Nutter Butter Bites, PayDay, Red Bull, and Ritz Bits. Some other products such as Chanel, Estée Lauder, and the Four Seasons. Plus, Alice mentions shows, such as Cake Boss, Project Runway, and Sex and the City, as well as games such as Freerice and Snood.  

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alice admits to drinking alcohol and even threw up once after drinking too much Southern Comfort. She also mentions kids at her school who smoke pot and drink alcohol. Jenni's father is an alcoholic.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that On the Road to Find Out is about an overachieving teen girl named Alice who falls apart when she doesn't get into Yale but understands more about success, failure, and herself after she becomes a runner. There are a few uses of strong language ("God," "crap," "ass," "s--t"). Alice drinks alcohol, and her friend Jenni's father is an alcoholic. Alice's journey through applying to colleges, and being rejected, could lead to some discussions. Parents also may want to talk to their kids about the pressures they may feel to perform well at school. 

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What's the story?

What's a self-absorbed, overachiever to do when she's rejected from Yale? Alice, the protagonist in ON THE ROAD TO FIND OUT, mopes around and moans to her one friend and her family, spends time with her beloved pet rat, and eventually makes a rather impulsive New Year's resolution to start running. It isn't easy for Alice, but she slowly gets in shape. As she becomes a runner, she meets a community of people who not only help with her technique but also help her understand that there are many ways to define success -- and that failure can be an important step in getting you where you need to go.

Is it any good?

Alice isn't always an easy character to like. She doesn't ask her best friend Jenni much about her own life, and she even forgets her mom's big birthday party. But readers will see throughout that there's something special about her; her love of learning and for her pet rat set her apart from the average teen girl.

Readers will learn a lot about running, rats, and vocabulary words. But it's the big messages about being willing to make mistakes and fail that readers will find inspiring and -- especially for teens with their own college-application anxieties -- reassuring.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about New Year's resolutions. Why does Alice decide to start running? Do you ever make resolutions of your own?

  • On the Road to Find Out involves running, but it's not really a book about sports. What makes this a coming-of-age story? What are some of your favorite coming-of-age books or movies? 

  • Is there too much pressure on college applicants to be perfect? If you were a college admissions officer, how would you decide which student to let in?

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