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Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray
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Ostrich Boys

by Keith Gray

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Blake, Kenny and Sim have just lost their best mate, Ross, to a car accident. Having attended the funeral and coming out dissatisfied with the way Ross's life was celebrated, the three teenagers decide to make a pilgrimage to the town of Ross, in Scotland, a place Ross once tried to runaway to. Only one problem, they have to steal his ashes first.
With that mission accomplished - messily - they embark on a 2 day train journey to Ross and thus begins an adventure and a journey of self-discovery for them all. After Kenny leaves his backpack (containing most of their money for the trip and Kenny's ticket) on a train during a frantic interchange things take a wild turn.
Relying on each other, the boys talk about Ross and share recent memories of him that start to paint a picture they don't recognise as their friend who would "stand up to anyone". It is clear that Ross is still having a marked effect on their lives - even from his urn in Blake's backpack.
Keith Gray writes young men very well - he speaks their language and I found these boys believable, sad, hilarious and likeable. I look forward to reading more books by Keith Gray very soon.
Did they get Ross to Ross? That would be telling..... ( )
  sueo23 | Jul 4, 2013 |
"Ross was hit by a car, knocked off his bike. At the funeral the vicar had called it an accident. But somehow the word wasn't enough. It wasn't big enough, powerful enough--didn't mean enough. He hadn't spilled a cup of tea, he hadn't tripped over his own feet. He'd had his life smashed out of him. It felt like there should be a whole new word invented just to describe it."

Upset over the loss of their best friend, Ross, and displeased by his funeral, Blake, Sim, and Kenny all agree: their dead mate deserves a proper ceremony. The funeral "felt like genuine betrayal," says Blake, because Ross means more to them than hoaxed compassion expressed by people who didn't care about him--not like Blake, Sim, or Kenny did, anyway. Ross was their friend and worthy of something authentic. Born in a moment of grief, hurt, and eagerness to do one last thing for their friend, the boys plan to take Ross to Ross--Ross, Scotland, that is.

"It's not really kidnapping, is it?" Kenny said. "He'd have to be alive, wouldn't he? For it to be a proper kidnapping, I mean."

What is supposed to be a two-day scheme stretches out to be a longer adventure as lost money, forgotten train tickets, and evading police jeopardize the mission. The biggest threat, however, lies with each other. Together, Ross, Kenny, and Sim all see themselves as the only three people who never wronged or abandoned Ross--not like his sister Caroline (who'd publicly embarrassed him), his ex-girlfriend Nina, the bully Sean Munro, or even Ross' parents. They easily dismiss the idea that Ross intentionally biked into the oncoming vehicle, but their sureness and friendship are tested as they each question their loyalty. This trip will become a bookmarked chapter in their lives they can’t forget. Expected to fortify their friendship, their willingness (or lack thereof) to speak honestly–to listen and understand–quietly lingers in the background. Difficult to ignore yet subtle, it hovers between the text, and I could sense its claws intimidating to tear an already weakened bond.

Our friendship used to be a solid square, one of us to each other. Things were very different as a triangle.

Ross is what they all gravitated toward in the beginning, and it was Ross who bound the four of them together. Now that Ross is dead, the remaining three will either strengthen their connection or watch it unravel.

Coming-of-age stories, by their nature, are stories most people relate to. They often capture those moments when the simple ignorance of childhood or youthful innocence begins to fray. For me, personally, I enjoy the dynamics of male friendships much more than the bond girls share. Perhaps it's because I find societal gender roles versus natural male and female relationships interesting, but boys often have a hinted intimacy sitting underneath all that masculinity. It's an affection that is, naturally, very different from girls. Once these little moments in the story are pieced together and viewed as a whole, it can strike powerfully as touching and meaningful.

Oddly, however, I am apathetic toward [b:Ostrich Boys|3954368|Ostrich Boys (Definitions)|Keith Gray|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1331965854s/3954368.jpg|4000051]. Some kind of emotion usually rouses the instant I finish reading a book's last sentence. Whether I feel happy, disappointed, sad, bored, in love, or relieved, I at least feel something, but I am entirely void. This books is about three friends doing whatever they can to reach their destination--throw in a bungee jump, a few girls, a little bickering, and car-chase... Well, I just summarized the book for you. Gray could not, no matter how badly I wished he could, hook me into Ostrich Boys. Once again, I'm somewhat to blame. When I read the summary I mentally went back to Stand By Me (the movie, of course, because I sadly haven't read [b:The Body|11574|The Body|Stephen King|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328182521s/11574.jpg|2334601]) and [b:Looking for Alaska|99561|Looking for Alaska|John Green|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1360206429s/99561.jpg|919292]. Both are great coming-of-age stories dealing with adventure, friendship, life, and death. Ostrich Boys, on the other hand, also deals with those issues, but they are dealt with lightly. I'll explain:

What I felt Gray failed to add was the right amount emotion, which felt brushed over like a secondary element. The humor helps deliver a light-hearted, young atmosphere, but I missed the sincerity. Indeed, there are moments when one or all three of the boys are caught brooding; albeit, they are short-lived moments. But I mean: hey! Their best friend just died. I know it's part of our cultural norm for boys to blanket their emotions, but these boys are friends. I didn't expect the characters to mourn via a sob party, letting their emotions run loose like caged animals desperate to be let out. What I did expect was to witness the boys loosen the grip that's strangling their feelings, thoughts, and in consequence: their friendship. With that, I thought they would thicken emotional ties that already have, in some way, connected them for life.

Maybe I am wrong, but I'd think Blake, Kenny, and Sim would feel the foundation of their friendship is strong enough to speak to each other. Why do they hesitate? It feels like they don't completely trust each other enough to know the other two--or at least one of the two--has the third's back. In a way, Gray explores the friendship through Blake's conversation with Kayleigh:

"We phone each other every night, and send each other texts all the time too. It's not only when we see each other. Boys don't talk to each other about proper things. I know I can talk to my pals all the time anytime I want and tell them anything."

I knew there were one or two things I would never dream of telling Kenny or Sim. But maybe I would have talked to Ross about them. . . . "You're being a bit unfair, aren't you?" I said. "Okay, maybe we don't talk all the time, but maybe we don't need to. I know Kenny and Sim would be there for me if I need them. In fact, just today with that bungee jump? The guy who ran it was a total arsehole, but Kenny and Sim were right by my side all the time."

But will they always be there for Blake, and is Blake willing to always stand up for Kenny and Sim? There is an interesting moment where Blake comes clean and outs his betrayal to Ross. Sim's reaction sets the final landing on where they all stand with one another, and that reaction intrigued me. What I would have given for Sim to open up to his friends about his home life, how he felt about Ross' death, and what the trip meant to him. Regardless, Blake understands Sim better than I or even Kenny, explaining:

"I think Sim looked up to Ross more than any of us. And I bet if Sim could've swapped lives with someone, he would've jumped at the chance of being Ross for a while."

Hindered by its own restricted emotional range, I feel disappointed over the book’s shallow exploration and inability to move me. But, in the end, would I recommend Ostrich Boys? I give a tentative "yes."

This review and more can be read at Midnight Coffee Monster. ( )
  the_airtwit | May 19, 2013 |
Blake, Kenny and Sim steal the urn with their friend Ross and take it on the trip to Scotland that Ross had wanted to take. A page-turner with humor, adventure, mishaps and some thinking about what really may have happened when Ross died. Great adventure British style; shortlisted for several awards. ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
Kenny, Sim, Blake and Ross are best friends, fifteen year old boys they live in Cleethorpes, or at least three of them do now, for Ross has just been killed in an accident. Disgusted with the lack of any genuine input at Ross' funeral and the hypocrisy shown by those who by all rights should not even have been there, they think on what they can do to put matters right. After wreaking havoc locally taking revenge on those who they consider deserve it, they ponder what Ross would really have wanted. Recalling that Ross always wanted to go to Ross, Dumfries and Galloway (simply for reasons of the name), they decide that that's what they will do, take him there - but first they must secure his ashes from his family.

Blake, the somewhat overweight member of the group, narrates events as they steal away Ross' ashes and make their escape from Cleethorpes. We follow them on their incident filled quest, where the clumsiness of one causes a detour of route, and subsequent difficulties in reaching their ultimate destination. Along they way think about Ross, they ponder their friendships, and worry about the consequences they must face on returning home; the increasingly difficult journey testing the friendship of the three boys to the limits.

Ostrich Boys is an appealing and touching story, Keith Gray has created four very different, likeable boys bound by their loyalties to each other. Blake's narrative is honest, full of insight and peppered with touches of humour, making for an entertaining yet moving read. ( )
  presto | Apr 23, 2012 |
What happens when your best friend is hit by a car and dies? Do you steal his ashes and take him on a road trip to the one place he said he always wanted to visit?
That's what the boys do in this novel and it's at times funny and heartbreaking. The ended will stay with you for a long time. ( )
  faither | Aug 14, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
(3) YA British teens Kenny, Sim, and Blake, grieving over the loss of their disturbed friend Ross, undertake a journey to give Ross a "real funeral" in Scotland. During their trip, the three young men come to terms with themselves and the realization that their friend's death was not accidental. Genuine characters and adventures that go from wacky to challenging make this a heartfelt, engaging read.
Older Fiction; Voyages and travels; Scotland; England; Emotions--Grief; Suicide; Death; Friendship
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099456575, Paperback)

It's not really kidnapping, is it? He'd have to be alive for it to be proper kidnapping.' Kenny, Sim and Blake are about to embark on a remarkable journey of friendship. Stealing the urn containing the ashes of their best friend Ross, they set out from Cleethorpes on the east coast to travel the 261 miles to the tiny hamlet of Ross in Dumfries and Galloway. After a depressing and dispiriting funeral they feel taking Ross to Ross will be a fitting memorial for a 15 year-old boy who changed all their lives through his friendship. Little do they realise just how much Ross can still affect life for them even though he's now dead. Drawing on personal experience Keith Gray has written an extraordinary novel about friendship, loss and suicide, and about the good things that may be waiting just out of sight around the corner ...

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:46 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

After their best friend Ross dies, teenagers Blake, Kenny, and Sim plan a proper memorial by taking his ashes to Ross in Southern Scotland. This adventure-filled journey tests their loyalty to each other and forces them to question what friendship means. Suggested level: secondary.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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