Sep 122011

Fresh Heir by Michael Reilly
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Fresh Heir (May 13, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615445616
ISBN-13: 978-0615445618
Jamie is a twelve-year-old who has been labeled highly gifted. Good news, right? Except with it comes a cross-county car trip…with his ultra-obsessed dad…his annoying little sister…and a wacky educational consultant his dad has hired. Jamie could suggest better ways to spend his summer, and to live his life, if only someone would listen.
But his dad, Doug, can’t hear above the loud voices demanding nothing but the best for his son. Doug will do anything to give Jamie the leg up he needs to compete in a vicious world and get into an Ivy League school.
Michael Reilly’s hysterical road-trip in search of achievement is a wide-eyed satire on the pressures of modern parenthood. As they set out on the trip to San Francisco, where Jamie will attend a summer program for gifted youth, Doug’s enthusiasm and hyperkinetic desire to enrich Jamie at every turn leads to hilarious complications and enlightening predicaments.
A riotous portrayal of a father desperate to have the promise of his youth fulfilled through the life of his son, Doug’s journey is not unlike that of many parents in modern-day America. With good grades, extracurricular activities, and solid SATs no longer the benchmark for entrance into top colleges, the pressure and stress of giving children the best opportunities for success can often lead to misplaced motivations. Accurately depicting the push-pull of parenthood and childhood and the need for adults to understand the voices of their children, Fresh Heir is a laugh-out-loud journey of self-discovery.

Book Excerpt:

I believe my dad decided to go on this trip the day I was born. That was nearly twelve and a half years ago. Not that he’s farsighted. If anything, he admits, he likes to focus only on the present under the belief that everything in his future will somehow find a way on its own to slip down the wrong road. But when it comes to the road down my future life, he seems to be the grand wizard of great expectations. You know that soft part on top of a baby’s head? I think they call it the fontanel. Yes, I think they do. Well, I’ve had this recurrent dream where I’m an infant and my fontanel throbs like a nervous heart while I sit alone propped in a rocking chair as race cars roar through our backyard and my dad stands naked on our roof shouting: “Slow down! Listen up! My kid’s a prodigy! My kid’s a prodigy!”
I guess all dreams are just a twist on reality for good or for bad. And the reality is, I’ve heard versions of these cheers from my dad ever since I can remember. Fortunately, in real life he’s always had his clothes on. Unfortunately, he’s taken no care to temper these cheers in front of my friends, which lately is a source of wicked embarrassment—for me and my friends. But give the guy credit. So what if he gushes excitement over my future, often at the expense of his own. Sometimes they call that selflessness. I guess. At least he’s not like a lot of my friends’ parents who call their kids spoiled, lazy, and ungrateful. Or worse. Like my friend Zach’s dad, who calls him spoiled, lazy and ungrateful, while driving him to hockey tournaments all over God’s creation with pledges that one day Zach’s going to make it to the Big Time. Zach has learned to despise hockey and has confided to me that he’s going to do everything in his power not to make it to the Big Time, so his dad will never be the next famous father of an unfulfilled superstar. OK, so maybe I put words in his mouth, but the point is, Zach really resents his dad these days. It’s scary.
I don’t resent mine. Mostly I feel sorry for him. Just look at him now, bobbing and weaving his head on his chicken neck to the sound of Steely Dan he’s cranked up way too loud in the car so we can’t hear the honking outside. It’s a pathetic obsession for New Yorkers to honk madly on the Long Island Expressway in dead-still traffic, as if it might miraculously launch everyone into motion again. A kooky woman in a little red car next to us isn’t honking, but tilting over her steering wheel with the sneer of someone who has a better solution in mind. Like maybe the exaggerated slant of her body toward her destination might get her there quicker, despite the five thousand cars ahead of her not going more than two miles per hour. Who knows, maybe it does work, that tilting thing. It does for those ski jumpers in the Olympics when they soar through the air. They’re mostly Scandinavians, aren’t they? Ingrid over there next to us has soared past at least forty times already in the span of fifty yards. Twice she’s picked her nose. I’m sick of seeing her. And I begin to conclude this is going to be one long trip.
“This will break up soon, kiddos,” my dad pledges feverishly. He’s peering at us with forced glee through the reflective tint of his sunglasses, and I just grit my teeth waiting for my little sister to fart again in the seat next to me. “You doing all right, Jame?” he asks me, as if the Shrek-like pallor of my skin might be indicating otherwise. I nod my head, not too vigorously or it might foment the nausea. I try to steer my gaze away from the bumper sticker on a Hummer the color of bile plodding past on the left for the gazillionth time. There are 3 kinds of people: Those who can count and those who can’t, the sticker says. Now that’s pretty funny, Einstein, but it doesn’t atone for your driving that hunk of bile. Einstein’s tailed by a BMW that’s driving like it’s on a yo-yo string: jerking forward, drifting back, jerking forward, drifting back. I can’t tell who’s driving the BMW since the windows are tinted, just like the Hummer’s. My dad would argue it’s definitely a woman because they all drive like, well, yo-yos. The tinted windows all around send me into a trance as they repulse the pearly rays lancing through the thick air of an early summer heat wave that seems to carry with it the perpetual hum of cicadas, even though I really can’t hear a darn thing above all the honking. And my dad’s jarring recital of “Dirty Work.”
I began to feel the nausea the moment we descended the driveway under the lurching birch tree, and my dad swerved to miss the speeding UPS truck. It wouldn’t have happened if we’d left in the morning, when UPS never makes deliveries. Nine o’clock was our target departure time, but my dad usually operates off a clock that’s about five hours behind the rest of the world. So we set off at 2:10, and I was ready to puke at 2:15. It’s now 3:15, and we’re probably no more than two miles from home. Just think, only 4,600 miles left until San Francisco, when you include all the planned diversions. I told my dad this was a bad idea.
It’d help my stomach if I could ride shotgun, but it’s been poached by some lady I’d never in my life seen before this morning. Now apparently I will be spending the entire summer in close quarters with her.
she sounds wacky. That’s an e-mail I get from my friend Jessica when I describe the lady to her. Jessica’s sharp and let’s me be myself. That’s why I like her. Not like her, like her. But like her as a friend. Although I can’t help noticing Jessica’s chest going nuts these days, and this kid Frank who lives down my street says she’s going to be some snatch when she gets older. Frank’s going into tenth grade. He smokes pot. And he likes to play ring-and-run at two in the morning. My dad says next time he does it he’s going to squash the kid. Like a gnat. Which is perfect because that’s what Jessica says Frank looks like. She makes me laugh. And, lately, cry a lot when she talks about that thing with her mother.
now i think i know wat the lady smells like, I type back on my smartphone. We stick to e-mail because her mom won’t let her do Facebook. And texting is out of the question. Texting, her mom says, promotes salaciousness. OK. Whatever.
cat litter n anchovies, I continue to type. Chastely.
haha…sounds yummy. just like when my dad makes dinner. Jessica totally adores her dad. To this I can relate. But her mom too? I can’t deny this double dose of devotion sometimes makes me envious deep down. That’s alliteration.
i hate this trip already, I write back.
miss u already 🙂 I leave her hanging. I’m sure she doesn’t like that, but I refuse to engage in girly talk.
“Oh, thaaaaaat’s it, moron! Cut in front of me like it’s going to get you anywhere in this godforsaken traffic!” That’s my dad. The thing about his cheerful disposition is it’s brittle, like the shell of a candy apple when you first bite it. Other drivers definitely like to bite my dad, which might explain the race cars in my dream. He despises drivers of all sorts, mostly the ones that drive like he does. Which might explain why slowpokes piss him off the most. I’ll never forget the time he flipped off the old lady crawling along in front of us who just happened at that time to be my third grade teacher, Mrs. Hanley. She failed me on my next spelling test—not because the words were spelled wrong, but because my writing was “too sloppy,” which I found dubious. But I’d rather a failing grade than a shotgun blast to the head from some freak slightly miffed by my dad’s impatience on the road. He finds some way to get irked by just about every driver he encounters, which isn’t a good habit in New York, or if you’re driving across country. By my calculation we may encounter about 5,544,631 cars between New York and California, so I’ve braced myself for lots of hell-raising from the driver’s seat. Yes, this is definitely going to be a long trip. Unless we get shot first.

My Thoughts:
I was excited to read this book because I love anything about family or friendships. To be honest, for the first 50-60 pages I kept taking breaks from this book because I just couldn’t get into it. It was supposed to be humorous, but I just found it corny. I’ve always finished any book I start, so I knew I was going to keep reading. And I’m glad I did. All of a sudden there was a shift in the story. It got more interesting. And funny! I even caught myself laughing out loud a few times. I loved the relationship Jamie had with his grandfather. I do wish the ending had been more detailed. Over all it seemed like the beginning was drawn out and could have been shortened so that we got to the good stuff sooner, but the ending was abrupt when that was the part of the book I wanted more of.

Even though I wouldn’t give this book 5 stars, I would give it a 3 and would read more from this author.

About Michael Reilly
Michael Reilly is a writer and entrepreneur. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. His first published novel, Fresh Heir, was released in May 2011. He is also founder and chief executive officer of FitDivs Inc, a company that promotes and rewards healthy living. Michael resides with his wife and four children in Charlottesville, VA.
You can visit his website or connect with him on Facebook
Thanks to Pump Up Your Book Tours for this review copy

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