Genre: Young Adult
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tor Teen (March 1, 2016)
Length: 304 pages
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Character, Driven is a coming-of-age story filled with literary word play, adolescent self-understanding, and more than a little humor. The main character, Cliff (as in “on the edge”) Sparks, a relatable and realistic teenager, who is brutally honest in revealing his most guarded feelings, most horrifying embarrassments, and deepest desires in clever and crass ways. David Lumbar having successfully recreated the high school experience in this novel, capturing the emotion, drama, and awkwardness of this time in everyone’s life.
Cliff is our first person narrator throughout. (At times, he actually breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to his readers.) Naturally, this 17-year-old young man has the usual assortment of teenage boy issues: home problems (His father doesn’t support his dreams of being an artist), school problems (A crush on a new girl whom he can’t find the courage to talk to), and life problems (No idea what he really wants to do with his own). But while all this weighs him down, Cliff has a group of diverse, offbeat friends to help him through it all. And this story is his opportunity to be brutally honest with himself, as he lets his playfulness run wild in his writing: everyone getting colorful nicknames, every literary device being used. These elements partially masking the very believable and relatable growing up that Cliff finds himself going through.
Probably most readers of Character, Driven will fall into two categories and appreciate different things about it. For teenagers (mainly boys, though girls can learn a great deal about teen boy’s true nature here), they will see Cliff as someone very familiar, who is dealing with similar problems as they or people they know; his funny, introspective story voicing out loud many of their own thoughts about their so called life. For everyone else (the “old people” in the reading audience), the draw here is a fun return to the good and bad times of teen-hood when every moment was alive with excitement and horror, as we all slowly fought our inevitable transformation from children into grownups by questioning everything, surrounding ourselves with friends, goofing off in every way possible, and dreaming of the perfect significant other to share it all with.
As for any criticism of the book, I could say say some of Cliff’s teen behavior was a bit much and that the pacing was a bit slow in sections. However, those are minor complaints, which could have more to do with me being in the “older” section of the audience rather than any true issues in David Lumbar’s writing.
Funny, insightful, and filled with cool literary devices, Character, Driven is as good as its central character Cliff; a young man who is slowly finding his way through life’s problems, as he searches for a path to move forward after high school and try to reach for his dreams. And if you find Cliff’s voice as familiar and relatable as I did, you too will feel sorry to see the last page in this journey arrive.
I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.