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Spinning Out

by David Stahler

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5416406,834 (4.11)None
Frenchy and Stewart, two Northern Vermont high school seniors, try out for the school musical, "Man of La Mancha," but when Stewart is cast as Don Quixote he soon becomes obsessed with his role and Frenchy must try to overcome his own demons to help his friend stay grounded in reality.

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Reviewed from a Librarything Early Reviewer copy

There are some books that surprise you. You pick them up with low expectations, thinking that this is not the kind of book for you and opening it with a sense of duty. Oh, fine. I really should review this. It was sent to me for free after all. That sort of thing.

But then you read a few pages and although the story has no werewolves, vampires or any supernatural creatures, no murders or corporate secrets being traded to the highest bidder, the book has your full attention.

This was the case with Stahler's Spinning Out, a simple tale of two high school buddies in their senior year of high school. Frenchie and Stewart are the clowns of the school, though they both do well academically, they are the non-joiners, the outcasts. But when Stewart gets it into his quirky head that they should try out for the school musical, Man of La Mancha, the fit hits the shan as they say. Stewart gets the role of Don Quixote and Frenchy gets the role of Sancho Panza, a fitting metaphor for their friendship and personality.

Frenchy (so named because of his French-Canadian background and the fact that he is husky and hirsute- a stereotype I take issue with Mr. Stahler) thinks Stewart is joking, that it is a big lark. But it is soon clear that playing Don Quixote means way more to Stewart than Frenchy could have guessed. Stewart begins to wear his costume all the time, and is rarely out of character. When Frenchy hears Stewart battling the voices in his head, he realises that there is something very wrong with his friend and he doesn't know what to do. Unfortunately, this is just the horrifying scenario he has just lived through with his father. An ex-soldier fresh from Iraq, he suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome and committed suicide, leaving Frenchy and his mother to wonder how they could have stopped him. frenchy is haunted by the "if I had just..." syndrome familiar to the surviving family members.

At first glance, this is a story with a predictable plotline. Disinterested, troubled kid comes of age by taking a chance and finding out he is not such a loser as he supposes. But Stahler has made it so much richer. He deftly weaves themes of mental illness, suicide and depression through out the book without ever getting maudlin.

I think I actually heard the creaking of my heart as it cracked just a little for Stewart and Frenchy.

I suprised the hell out of myself by not being able to put this book down. The characters are rich and nuanced. The plot swift and suspenseful. There are several scenes centered around battling windmills. What's not to like?

I would recommend this to...I don't know who I would recommend this to. It would be a good one for teen boys who don't like to read maybe. But alas, I don't know many of those. I would also recommend this to teen girls who like coming of age stories- fans of Nick Hornby maybe, or Gordon Korman... Hell, I would recommend this to anyone who likes Don Quixote, or even just a good story. ( )
  wiremonkey | Nov 9, 2011 |
An excellent YA book, Spinning Out features one teen struggling to deal with a personal tragedy, and his buddy falling into serious mental health problems. Beautifully parallels the story of Don Quixote, which features strongly in the book. A gripping story that will keep you reading.
The book features a lot of marijuana use and 'foul' language, and the dialogue is very believable. The drug use fades away as the characters recognize its tendency to limit their abilities. Highly recommended. ( )
  teenlibcam | Oct 3, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Well Written. A few hard topics are covered. There is some cursing in it, so I wouldn't suggest it to anyone under 13. ( )
  ReDefiningAwesome | Aug 23, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
There are so many layers to this story, even more so than at first glance. It's being toted as a GLEE-like mashup with a serious look at the bonds of friendship. They are not far off course with that description, but it really is just scratching the surface. First, let me warn you of a few things....for those sensitive to them or younger readers, there is drug use, swearing, suicide and mental illness within this story. It's a fictitious look at something that could happen in real life to you, to me....to your best friend George down the street. In fact, a lot of what occurs is probably happening in one away or another in your neighborhood right now....that's the scary reality of a story like this. It hits "home" whether you have actually experienced the situations first hand or not. Now back to the other story aspects....

It deals with all those off colored items mentioned above, but it also takes a look at family and friendship...with the realization that often they become one in the same. If not for Frenchy, Stewart would have been beside himself....but the same could be said of Frenchy in his times of need and there have been plenty especially with the recent passing of his father (and certainly with how he passed away). Then take the relationship between Stewart and his hippie parents. It serves its purpose for allowing him free reign of his life, but we also see how that lose approach can create other problems (such as trust, and hesitance to step in when it suits the situation verses their needs) that may not be anticipated at first. Move to Frenchy's Mom, a dedicated woman of today that works long hours to provide for her family, but loves them all the same. Enter Ralph, potential love interest and local drug dealer...sorta. Even though he's the supplier for most of the area, you'll find it hard to really dislike him....much as Frenchy chastises himself about from time to time. Suffice it to say that person to person bonds are explored to their fullest.

Aside from the story, readers also get a bit of a culture lesson from the smarty pants side of Stewart and courtesy of Cervantes. Never heard of Man of La Mancha? Don't know who Don Quixote is? Sancho is not ringing a bell? They will be by stories end. It's a great way to expose readers of all ages to the classics and instill that seed of curiosity to investigate the work further. Just try to escape this story without singing the infamous "I, Don Quixote" song....betcha it won't happen. It's the perfect play for the leading men in our story. In fact, the events that occur pretty much play out like a modern day Quixote-type adventure....in its full rainbow of colors.

In short, the characters are easy to relate to, the story believable, the ending unimaginable....all of which add up to a great reading experience waiting for you beyond the greenish haze from the Smoking Rock (which by the way, isn't what you think....you'll have to read it to find out more). Recommended read for older teens through adults for the very reasons mentioned previously (no worries, I won't re-hash it....get it?). ( )
  GRgenius | Jul 7, 2011 |
Teens take on lead roles in "Man of La Mancha" as one of them loses his marbles. Nicely paced, logical plot development. ( )
  picardyrose | Jun 15, 2011 |
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For all those who suffer from the wounds that can't be seen.
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Frenchy and Stewart, two Northern Vermont high school seniors, try out for the school musical, "Man of La Mancha," but when Stewart is cast as Don Quixote he soon becomes obsessed with his role and Frenchy must try to overcome his own demons to help his friend stay grounded in reality.

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