Happy Middle Grade Monday, guys!
Today, I'm reviewing On the Run by Tristan Bancks. I was REALLY excited for the premise of the book, because let's be honest: I think we've all fantasized about the idea of suddenly finding a million dollars in our bank account.
However, the execution of the story was fairly weak, and left a compelling premise hanging in the wind.
Hardcover, 240 pages
Expected publication: November 17th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Format read: ARC via publisher
Ben has always wanted to be a cop, so he's intrigued when police officers show up at the door, asking for his parents. Then his parents arrive after the police leave and rush him and his sister into the car, insisting they are going on a vacation. Ben's a little skeptical—his family doesn't go on vacations. After they lose the police in a high-speed car chase and end up in a remote cabin deep in the woods, Ben discovers his parents' secret: millions of dollars were deposited into their bank account by accident, and they took the money and ran off. Ben isn't sure what to think. Are his parents criminals? And because he ran off with them, is he a criminal, too?
Such was the case for On the Run. On paper, the synopsis sounded intriguing: Ben's parents realize that a million dollars has accidentally been deposited into their account. Rather than do the right thing and alert their bank, Ben and his family go on the run. Ben now has to decide if what his parents are doing is right, and whether he'll go along with them or not.
I'm fairly certain that I'm not the only person out there who has wondered what they would do if money was accidentally deposited into their account - especially as it has happened in real life - so that aspect of the synopsis immediately drew me in.
However, I quickly learned that the synopsis wasn't exactly faithful to what was actually in the book. While Ben's parents do come into money, Bancks never fully details where the money has come from. Instead, he throws out hints and insinuations, but it's all very vague and can easily be misconstrued.
Rather than further the world-building of the book, Bancks also chooses to focus more on Ben, including his internal struggle between right and wrong. While Ben's attempts to use detective way to figure his way out of the situation are a nice nod to both his age and his interests, Bancks misses several opportunities to have Ben definitively make the choice of whether he is on the side of the law or not. Ben ultimately also does commit to an action that had me rolling my eyes at the overall believability of the story, and his moral standing as a character.
The character development and world building was ultimately hindered by poor writing as well. For whatever reason, Bancks doesn't seem to be especially adept at writing transitions, and had several awkward time jumps throughout the book. There were instances in which I would have to reread sentences, just to confirm that yes, the book had jumped forward in time.
Though some younger readers will undoubtedly relate to Ben's struggles to co-exist in a family with two parents who are clearly selfish and self-destructive, his own behavior isn't all that much better. Bancks has Ben commit to a choice that is designed to look like a golden parachute for his struggling family, but will likely just make readers question the logic of the overall plot.
(Also, will likely make some parents/educators sigh, as well.)
Recommended for readers who genuinely have an interest in the book. Otherwise, cannot recommend.