Our Summer Book Club selection was “On the Road to Find Out” by Rachel Toor. This is Toor’s debut YA novel, and it’s a very interesting, humorous, and inspiring story. Through her protagonist Alice, Toor teaches us how to run, how to overcome rejection, how to improve our vocabulary, and inadvertently about the mystery of the college admissions process (which was highly valuable to me, since my son will be a senior this fall. As a group, we all really liked the book, and we think those of you looking for a contemporary romance with a little bit of romance and a whole lot of heart will enjoy it too! Many thanks to Macmillan for sending us all copies of the book!
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 320 pages | Pub Date: June 10, 2014 | Buy the Book
On New Year’s Day, Alice Davis goes for a run. Her first ever. It’s painful and embarrassing, but so was getting denied by the only college she cares about. Alice knows she has to stop sitting around and complaining to her best friend, Jenni, and her pet rat, Walter, about what a loser she is. But what she doesn’t know is that by taking those first steps out the door, she is setting off down a road filled with new challenges—including vicious side stitches, chafing in unmentionable places, and race-paced first love—and strengthening herself to endure when the going suddenly gets tougher than she ever imagined, in On the Road to Find Out by Rachel Toor.
Teen Reader Average: A-
Erin graded the book a A:
On the Road to Find Out, by Rachel Toor, followed Alice, a senior in high school. At her age, her life should be brimming with hopes and dreams for the future, but when she gets rejected from the only college she applied to (Yale) she finds herself in a self-involved and depressed rut. It never even crossed Alice’s mind that she would be rejected from Yale, and the startling blow leads her on an introspective journey to find out what she is without her lifelong dream. After an ill-advised New Year’s Resolution, Alice decides to start running. Through the ups and downs that beginning a sport naturally provides, Alice begins to realize how much her own actions affect those around her, and how much she can accomplish outside of an academic setting.
I really enjoyed this book. Rachel Toor managed to make me hate Alice and then convinced me to like her again. The unique addition of a pet rat and the interesting characters developed around Alice and her expanding scope led me to be truly interested in what happened to the other characters, instead of just the main one. This novel also managed a good balance of Alice’s running and her personal life. I felt like I knew Alice as a runner and as an ordinary senior. Though I myself have no attraction to the running world, this book pushed me a little closer to it than I was before. I appreciated an ending that I didn’t expect, and was satisfied that every character got their own resolution in the conclusion. Overall, I enjoyed this book and recommend it to large variety of readers!
Adia graded the book a B+:
I was very excited to read on the road to find out, mainly because I have taken an interest in cross country and was just starting to run. The story itself was very enjoyable to read and quite inspiring. The author did a fantastic job of showing how enjoyable a sport can be if you push yourself just far enough. The story was very entertaining, a great coming of age and YA novel, but it had its ups and downs.
Although I really enjoyed the story, I found a slight problem with Alice. I agree with my mom on Alice’s character. She is very self-centered, and unapologetic, which, for me, made the book a bit unenjoyable. I also would agree if it weren’t for her loveable pet rat, and her best friend, I might have put down the book, which I don’t do often unless it does nothing for me. But, also like my mom (Keely, below), I did warm up to Alice at the very end of the book.
I believe this book would appeal to YA readers. It was very well written, and over all, a fantastic story.
Adult Reader Average: B+
Diana graded the book an A:
Rachel Toor’s debut novel is an engaging and motivational story that has a little bit of something for everyone. Toor tells the story of Alice Davis, a senior who has always had everything she has ever wanted. Then when the unthinkable happens to her – she was denied early acceptance to Yale – she has no idea how to handle this rejection. She becomes depressed and even less sociable than usual. So when her best friend makes her choose a new year’s resolution, Alice decides to take up running.
That is where the story really takes off. Alice slowly transforms her running from a slow embarrassing five minutes to ultimately training for her first 10k. As the story unfolds and we learn more about Alice the truth is that she is extremely unlikeable. In fact, there’s something off about her. I wondered if maybe she had some kind of problem that we’re not told about it. She seemed to have difficulty relating to people socially, she didn’t respond appropriately to other people’s pain, she only had two friends – a girl she’s known her whole life and her pet rat (yes, rat). For a long time, I really had a hard time relating to Alice. Toor does a great job of helping us hang in there and keeping up with Alice’s journey, both with running and with her emotional/mental state.
In addition, I also loved the SAT vocabulary words that are interspersed throughout the novel. At the end Toor shares a little bit from her experiences as an admissions counselor at Duke. She gives some wonderful advice on how to make that process a little bit easier for high schoolers. As I stated above, this is very timely in my own life with my son who is about to begin his senior year. Overall, I liked “On the Road to Find Out” and highly recommend it to teens.
Sandie graded the book a B+:
I wasn’t sure what to expect from “On the Road to Find Out,” because I’m not a runner, although I’ll be taking up the cause soon to please my daughter. I have a soft spot for books about athletes, precisely because I wasn’t one, but it’s clear from the beginning that Alice isn’t an athlete at the start; she just takes up running as a resolution, a release after the devastating news she wasn’t accepted to her first choice school (Yale, by the way, has one of the craziest acceptance rates in the country, taking only 8% of applicants).
Alice isn’t the most likeable character. She’s a self-absorbed only daughter who seems to care exclusively for her beloved pe rat and her understanding best friend Jenni. Caught up in her own disappointment, Alice isn’t always good about empathizing with others, but when she starts to run, really run, she meets Miles, a homeschooled distance runner with an old soul, gets a job at a running store, and finally starts looking beyond herself.
Toor beautifully captured the (supposed) joys of running and the endorphin-high of a new and swoony crush. Although I wasn’t always Alice’s biggest fan, I am a fan of the book, and look forward to reading more of Toor’s work!
Melanie graded the book a B:
When Alice Davis receives a rejection letter from the only school she ever wanted to attend (Yale), she finds herself mired in self-pity. With a little encouragement from her friend, she makes a new year’s resolution to start running. Her first run on New Year’s Day is pretty horrible, not to mention embarrassing.
Almost in spite of herself, she manages to keep going and, before long, her outlook on running changes for the better. She meets other runners who give her insight and perspective so that her outlook on life begins to change as well.
Reading how Alice went from running for about 5 minutes before wanting to give up to actually considering running a 10k has been some good inspiration for me to see how far this running journey can take me, even if, in the end, I literally run nowhere.
Keely graded the book a B-:
Being a casual runner myself, I was excited to read a YA approach to becoming a runner coupled with a coming of age story of a girl in her last year of high school. The author did a great job of translating how one can fall in love with the sport and watching it through Alice’s eyes was refreshing and entertaining. Rachel also did a fantastic job portraying the running community and how eager and encouraging the running community at large is to new runners.
Unfortunately, prior to taking on running and “finding herself,” I found Alice to be a very unlikeable heroine. She is completely and unapologetically self-centered and it was really hard to find any amount of compassion for her even when she was struggling. I did warm-up to her at the end of the novel, but if it weren’t for the other supporting characters of her best friend, her pet rat, or her love interest Miles I probably would have abandoned the book.
I definitely think it would be much more appealing for the YA set. It was well written and the running sections were definitely the high point for me.
GIVEAWAY: Win a copy of “On the Road to Find Out”! To win a copy of the book, simply leave a comment. Extra “entry” if you tweet about the contest and come back to share your twwet. We’ll choose one random winner on Friday, Aug. 2, so leave your comment by 11:59PM on Aug 1. Because we are sending a physical copy, we can only offer this giveaway to readers with a domestic address.