________________ CM . . . . Volume xxi Number 25 . . . . March 6, 2015


Andreo’s Race.

Pam Withers.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2015.
208 pp., trade pbk. & ebook, $14.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-766-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77049-767-2 (ebook).

Grades 6-12 / Ages 11-17.

Review by Beth Maddigan.

*** /4


"Stop, Andreo. You gotta think about this one. So both our adoptive parents got fed a line. A big sales pitch that some black-market dude thought up. It's perfect, don't you see? This baby's got beauty-queen looks and doctor brains, and no birth parents who are going to ask for it back. The perfect history. Maybe all six hundred babies he collected money for came with the same damn story."


The headline, “Black-Market-Baby Ringleader Jailed in Bolivia”, sparks 16-year old best friends Andreo Wilson and Raul Jones to question the nature of their own Bolivian infant adoptions as they prepare for a trip to the South American country. Andreo’s Race follows Andreo and Raul who, along with Andreo’s adoptive parents and brother, share a love of multi-sport wilderness racing. These team competitions see racers navigating rough terrain on foot, canoe, and bicycle to reach checkpoints, rest stops, and, eventually, the finish line. Raul is an occasional addition to their team, especially when the course involves his specialty, cave exploration. He is particularly excited to be invited to join this race as he hopes to use some of the off-race time to uncover information about his and Andreo’s adoptions, a sensitive subject for both sets of parents.

     Andreo's Race will appeal to older preteens and young adults who enjoy action and adventure. The dialogue flows very well, and the conversations, especially those between Raul and Andreo, are natural and easy to follow. The boys' dialogue moves the action forward and gives readers the sense that they are eavesdropping on the increasingly dangerous secret plans the boys devise. The choice of first-person narrative builds empathy, and readers will relate to Andreo's struggles with his adopted family and his search for his birth parents.

     Raul and Andreo are believable and well-rounded main characters. Both boys have strengths and weaknesses and are portrayed with multifaceted personalities relatable for the book's audience. The large cast of secondary characters, while necessary for the intricate plot, do tend to be one-dimensional. Because the reader's view is through Andreo's perspective, however, the underdeveloped secondary characters are less of a concern. Andreo's viewpoint, especially at the beginning of the novel, is narrow. He has preconceived notions and has passed judgement on his mother's detached nature; his brother's place of prominence in the family; and his father's drive to win. As Andreo matures through the dangerous Bolivian race, and the even more dangerous pursuit for information on his and Raul’s birth parents, some of the secondary characters are more fully revealed.

     The novel's plot is as fast-paced as the adventure race described in its pages. The tensions in the story surrounding the wilderness race, family dynamics, and a potential illegal adoption ring build accordingly. Readers will find it challenging to put the book down as the boys find themselves exposing secrets, falling into traps, trusting the wrong people, and relying on their own ingenuity to save a rapidly deteriorating and dangerous situation. If readers are able to trust in the series of coincidences that lead to the novel's climax, the denouement will be satisfying.

     Realistic fiction relies on many aspects to be successful, and this novel has most of them. One noteworthy example is the wilderness race descriptions. Readers will feel like they have virtually experienced the canoeing, cycling and caving experiences. Descriptive passages are almost cinematic and keep pace with the plot. The blisters, fatigue, hunger, and exhaustion are accurately portrayed, and even the least adventurous reader is likely to empathize with the characters' struggles. However, the series of events that lead to the climax of the novel hold less believability. The week-long Bolivian race provides far too many opportune moments for the boys’ to uncover the adoption secrets and may leave readers sceptical.

     Overall, Andreo's Race is a great addition to any young adult library and will hold special appeal to readers that enjoy a fast-paced adventure novel. The main characters' pursuit of their own identities challenges them to grow and to refute some of their preconceived beliefs about the people in their lives. Even if readers find some opportunistic elements that detract from the believability of the story, they are likely to find themselves rooting for Andreo and Raul and holding their breath until the final elements of an epic deception are revealed.


Beth Maddigan is Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Education Librarian.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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