Cover image for Driving lessons
Driving lessons
Dexter, Catherine.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, MA : Candlewick Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
152 pages ; 22 cm
When she is sent to the small town in South Dakota where she had lived briefly with her great-grandmother after her father's death, fourteen-year-old Mattie must sort out her confused feelings about why she is there, her mother's possible remarriage, and the free-spirited seventeen-year-old she has just met.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.6 5.0 43465.
Format :


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Material Type
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X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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An absorbing novel for girls who are experiencing the intense feelings that come with adolescence.A story of loss, grief, anger, and reconciliation.An accurate portrayal of a conflicted relationship between a mother and daughter.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-8. Fourteen-year-old Mattie is sent to South Dakota while her mother works on her dissertation and tries to decide whether she's going to marry her longtime boyfriend. Mattie is not eager to stay with a family friend and volunteer at the national landmark house that once belonged to her great-grandmother. But when she meets Lester, another refugee from the city who's spending the summer with his uncle after some scrapes with the law, things look up. It's difficult to feel as if this story might really happen. No one in town ever seems to use a computer or TV to lessen the boredom, and there are enough coincidences to make readers notice (a car Mattie takes off with has the key in the ignition). What does ring true is Mattie's first-person voice. She's angry with her mother, intrigued by Lester and his lessons in driving and kissing, and needy to find out about her long-dead father. When Mattie winds up doing some things that are both dangerous and out of character, many readers will understand perfectly. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dexter (Safe Return) creates a strong heroine in this story of first love, loss and forgiveness. As the novel opens, 14 -year-old Mattie Lewis arrives in White Stone, S. Dak., where her mother has sent her to spend the summer with Belle, an old family friend. Mattie quickly develops a relationship with Lester, a slightly edgy and dangerous older boy, who teaches her, among other things, how to drive; then the two suddenly stop seeing each other. In her struggle to recover memories of her father, who died 10 years ago, Mattie opens up to Lester's uncle Philip, a town librarian who shows her historical primary documents of Mattie's great-grandfather. The documents provide a potentially interesting but undeveloped parallel story. When Mattie decides to steal a car to gain attention from her mother, Lester gets the blame (he has a past record of stealing cars) but all is resolved fairly in the end. Philip, Belle and Mrs. Kleiger (Mattie's boss and owner of the stolen car) form a network of sympathetic and generous adult characters in this small town. The author overworks the central metaphor of driving lessons, but her story captures Mattie's inner life as she learns to voice her sadness and anger. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-9-Although Mattie and her widowed mother lead "dull-as-dishwater" lives in Boston, the 14-year-old is furious about being sent to summer with a family friend in her mom's small hometown in South Dakota. Mattie is immediately intrigued with Lester Prentiss, an older teen from Chicago who, it is rumored, has been sent to live with his uncle in White Stone to stay out of trouble. She finds herself being given irregular and somewhat wild driving lessons by the enigmatic and magnetic Lester, who confides that he had once stolen some cars as a prank. When her mother visits to tell her that she is planning to marry her long-time suitor, Mattie unsuccessfully plots to bring the woman together with Lester's kindly Uncle Philip instead. When her plan fails, the angry, rebellious girl becomes an unlikely car thief and almost gets Lester into serious trouble. There are some loose ends here, such as Mattie's mother's refusal to discuss her daughter's father with her. Although the teen romance is a page-turner, readers may wish for more resolution. Yet Mattie is an attractive, interesting character whose excellent narrative voice conveys many feelings commonly experienced by girls, and the seductive Lester keeps everyone guessing.- Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.