Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly

Posted on Jun 4, 2016 in BR Library

9780544542617By Conrad Wesselhoeft
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 352
Age Range: 12 – 17 Years

Seventeen year-old dirt-bike-riding daredevil Arlo Santiago catches the eye of the U.S. military with his first-place ranking on a video game featuring drone warfare, and must reconcile the work they want him to do with the emotional scars he has suffered following a violent death in his family. Adios, Nirvana author Conrad Wesselhoeft, takes readers from the skies over war-torn Pakistan to the dusty arroyos of New Mexico’s outback in this young adult novel about daring to live in the wake of unbearable loss.

* “Readers will worry, laugh and ultimately soar along with Arlo as he finds his way. Nuanced supporting characters and a vivid New Mexico landscape ground Arlo’s dilemma, creating a superbly well-balanced narrative.”
Kirkus, starred review

“Wesselhoeft follows Adios, Nirvana with the multilayered story of 17-year-old Arlo Santiago, whose extreme risk-taking, sparked by tragedy, could save (or end) his life. In recent months, Arlo’s mother was killed in a convenience store holdup; his 12-year-old sister, Siouxsie, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease; and his father has begun drinking and letting the bills pile up. Arlo escapes by focusing on perfecting his dirt bike stunts and mastering the video game Drone Pilot. Out of the blue, the Air Force swoops in and—having recognized Arlo’s gaming skills—offers him a healthy sum of money to fly real drones remotely in Pakistan to locate a terrorist leader. Wesselhoeft’s mesmerizing descriptions of Conrad’s New Mexico home (“The colors, washed, torn, and bled, the slow-burning fuse of a sky”) and giddy exhilaration when he’s riding his Yamaha bike (“I’m conscious of the danger, of the possibility of broken femurs and neck, but I’m not afraid. Just the opposite…. Every ache in every cell of my body stops hurting”) will keep readers in the thrill of the moment.”
Ages 12–up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly