Cover image for Walk away home
Walk away home
Many, Paul.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Walker, [2002]

Physical Description:
240 pages ; 22 cm
To escape his problems at school and at home, Nick, who prefers walking to automobile travel, hikes to his aunt's cabin in hopes of spending the summer there.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.4 11.0 65360.
Format :


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X Young Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Don't break the prime directive--never look back.

Talk about marching to the beat of a different drummer. Nick has been out of step ever since his older brother was killed twelve years ago in a car crash.

Since then his conversations with his parents usually take place via their answering machine, his sense of humor gets him detentions, and the fire he causes earns him a one-way ticket to military school. Firmly believing there was never any trouble he couldn't walk away from, he treks miles across the state to visit his fugitive aunt--maybe the only person alive who can hear his inner drummer. She's found a home at a commune full of ex-hippies and lost souls, where, not surprisingly, Nick fits right in. But before he can get too comfortable, Nick gets involved with a girl, Diana, who has far more serious problems than he's ever faced.

Not only must he try to save Diana from her dark past and convince his parents he can be trusted, but most important, he has to convince himself not to walk away the next time trouble comes along.

Author Notes

Paul Many is the author of one picture book, The Great Pancake Escape , and three young adult novels, Walk Away Home, My Life, Take Two, and These Are the Rules. My Life, Take Two was named one of New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age. Paul lives with his family in Toledo, OH.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

A strong narrative voice combined with a unique setting and eccentric characters propel Many's (My Life, Take Two) novel, despite some rushed plotting. With his parents on vacation, Nick walks across the state to visit his wild aunt Wanda on a funky commune-type farm. He hopes that Wanda and his parents will let him stay for the school year so he can avoid military school (he was kicked out of his last school for, among other things, accidentally setting fire to Wanda's former house). Nick rekindles his relationship with Wanda, gets a job at the doughnut shop where she works and bonds with his new community. He also befriends Diana, from a neighboring development, whose own troubles threaten to get Nick into more hot water. In his interspersed "foot notes," Nick explains his obsession with walking ("When you walk, everything is connected to everything else... no quick cuts like in commercials"). Diana tells him during a fight that he also uses walking to avoid conflicts. Nick's not the only one with problems: Wanda must face her own irresponsibility when she's fired from her job, and Diana is worried her sexually abusive father will attack her sisters. That's a lot to solve during one summer, and the plotting's pace is somewhat erratic (for example, Diana's transformation from playing pranks on the "hippie" farm to becoming a full-fledged member of their community seems sudden). Ultimately, the commune's exuberant celebrations, Nick's heart-to-heart talks with Wanda and funny, honest narration will keep readers along for his journey. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8-10-During the summer between his junior and senior years in high school, Nick sets off on foot across his Midwestern state, trying to leave behind his cold home life and the prospect of a year at military school. He ends his trip at his aunt's home, a communal living situation peopled by middle-aged ex-hippies whose land is being encroached upon by a ritzy housing development. Nick and his aunt are old buddies and soon he has a job as well as a place to stay while he considers his future. The development, however, is home to a gaggle of nasty teens who periodically vandalize the hipsters' property-as well as to Diana, whom Nick works hard to get to know. By midsummer, she has decided to get her younger sisters and herself away from her abusive father; Nick willingly aids in this project, all the while rethinking his own family dynamics. Many is a skillful storyteller and the amount of adventure-both physical and psychological-that can be packed into one boy's summer works as he tells it. "Footnote" asides provide light but insightful riffs on contemporary American autocentricity. Nick is a refreshing character and the happy ending is well deserved by both him and readers.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



So leave me alone, willya? I mean, here I am walking off the edge of Buttpimple Nowhere, and this guy comes shuffling up the other side of the road-one arm stuck out, thumb up, the other wrapped around some big green ... something. Next he's passing me, and of course he's got to wave and it's "Howdy!" and I wave back and not so much as smile , but then, of course, he's crossing over. "Where you headed?" he says. We're walking against traffic, and he keeps looking over his shoulder. I nod ahead, not wanting to give him much to work with. "Just quit a job myself," he says. "Changin' tires on trucks." He's shorter than me and has a weaselly look like he just smeared dog crap on somebody's doorknob. "Got on my nerves." I nod again, taking a quick glance: hair all stringy and blond, T-shirt with the sleeves rolled, dirt-streaked arm wrapped around ... It's a big blow-up alligator he's got there! "Guys used to wait till they saw me drinking a coffee or something, and then they'd bust one off the rim. `BLAM!' Man, I would j-jump...." He pinches out the front of his shirt between two shaky fingers, and there's so many brown stains on it, I thought it was the pattern. "So it's on to cleaner pastures," he says. "How about you?" He's running along beside me to keep up, scrunching the alligator under his arm. I swear I'm not asking him about it. In fact, I'm not saying anything . He keeps right on going, anyway, just like I was afraid, pouring out his whole miserable history in steam-powered, banjo-backed, three-part harmony, laying on heavy all the "dangers, toils, and snares," he's suffered and how "he don't need no regular job anyways" since he likes "the simple ways." (Since they're more like him, I guess.) Amen. In spite of myself I'm nodding like one of those bobble-head dolls in the back window of a car-"terminal politeness," my ex-girlfriend called it. Now, listen; it's not like I hate people, but sometimes you want to be alone. You understand what I'm saying? If I hankered to hunker by the campfire and chew the rag, I would have taken the bus. You see, it's like this: When you're out walking, you see all this amazing stuff-a tree growing straight from a wall, a store with barrels out front full of live crabs, a path that leads to a pond where you can sit and eat your baloney sandwich and an otter pokes his slick head from the water to take a look at you. One day, I saw the Statue of Liberty going by, lying on the back of a truck! Not that you need to be by yourself to see all this, but if you're with somebody, they can't leave it alone. They've got to tell you to look , when there it is. Then they've got to try and figure out what it all means ("Can't be the real one; wouldn't fit on a truck, never, but I wonder if ...") and how it got there and where it's coming from and where it's going to and yammer on about it for the next couple of miles until it gets all chewed up and spit out in a wad of ordinary. "So where you running from?" he says. "What makes you think I'm running?" I say; finally riled. "Come on " he says. "Everybody on the road is running from somewhere." "Not me," I say. And technically I am speaking the truth. I am walking , and walking is not the same as running; it just puts things on hold for a while. I'd have the whole summer before I'd have to report to Colonel Saltine at the academy and loads of road to figure out all the things Samantha said before she walked. The guy seems to think for a second, but he only seems to, and it's just for a second. "Why, if I wrote down half the things I done," he says, and he's off again. Finally a pickup truck stops. "You boys looking for a ride?" The driver is an old guy with a gray buzz cut. I don't hitch and get carsick anyway, but my newfound friend runs right over and hops right in. I give the usual thumbs-down, and the driver ("Yeah, bo, suit yerself") peels off and I can see my traveling buddy looking out the back, his rubber alligator sticking out the window, his face all screwed like he can't figure me out. Join the club. Like I said, if I wanted to mingle, I would have taken the bus. My foolishly trusting parents had gone off on their trip the day before, and I had the whole house to myself and all morning to get ready. I loaded my pack with camping gear and road food, draped my bedroll tight around the top, and walked out the front door. I did not break the Prime Directive. I did not look back. That's the beauty of walking. You don't have to figure out schedules or make reservations. There's no kissing good-bye. It's pure leaving. When I passed the bus station at the far edge of town, I glanced through the foggy window at all the poor souls sticking to their plastic chairs in that sweat-soaked diesel-smelling purgatory and kept going. After a while I passed row homes, then homes with their own yards all around, then farms, then woods. Every once in a while, another town would come up, and I'd see all this in reverse-the woods, the farms, the houses, the couple of blocks of streets and storefronts. When I'd get to the crossroads downtown I'd park my pack next to the counter in a diner and have something to eat, people mostly treating me like I was invisible, talking only with waitresses. "What'll it be, hon?" I tipped extra when they called me that. I slept out behind the far outbuildings of farms a couple of nights, the stars like the winking points in some infinite connect-the-dots puzzle. I'd lie awake looking at them, imagining that if I could only draw in all the lines, I'd have a picture of everything. The towns got smaller and smaller, and it was longer and longer between them. The last town I passed through had one sad-looking diner-the counter guy in his white cap sitting on the curb out front, reading a newspaper-a flea market, and a dusty grocery. Then it, too, played out. It was starting to get dusky and chilly. I found myself looking closely at houses with For Sale signs, checking for one with no lights. You'd think I'd have learned by now. Soon I was passing a row of high, overgrown bushes. Through a break I could see a grassy field with a plywood wishing well in the middle, surrounded by a circle of run-down cabins, one with mounds of old scrap metal-bedsprings, farm machinery, a pyramid of rusted milk crates-in the yard around it. I pulled a wadded-up piece of paper out of my shirt pocket and for the hundredth time read the address in my father's cramped handwriting. It should be right near here, but I saw no signs or mailboxes or anything. Then I realized I was standing between a pair of crooked green telephone poles about as far apart as goalposts. Connecting their tops were two rainbow-curved bars hung with letters that spelled against the sky: HAPPINESS FAR Before I had half a chance to figure out what this was supposed to mean, a black pile-of-junk van flew up on the grass behind me, and an old woman in high-tops leaped out and ran-bluish hair streaming-between the poles and into the weedy yard. Next a sheriff's cruiser with a red splat on its windshield, siren screaming, lights whipping, cut in front of me and spit out two deputies, as close on her as smell on gym socks. I was thinking how good she kept her lead, even though she had a net bag full of grapefruit thwacking her legs, when I saw she held in her other hand some big, ugly-looking pistol. "Hee ... hee ... hee," she laughed in a way that would have sounded evil if it wasn't coming from her ropy old throat. Without stopping, she raised the pistol and took aim at a mirrored lawn ball in front of one of the cabins and fired. The ball exploded, leaving a red splatter on the birdbath where it had sat, probably blowing some chipmunk to stuffed-cheeks heaven. "Yeehah!" she said, just as the shorter of the two deputies grabbed her and they started doing a kind of polka, the two of them whirling around and around, the bag of grapefruit bouncing off the taller, older deputy, who was looking for an opening, the wishing well getting knocked cockeyed, until finally the younger one got her shooting arm twisted up behind her, pried the gun out of her hands, and cuffed her. "Yaaaaaaaaah! Get off a me!" she yelled, dropping the bag of grapefruit and slumping to the ground. "Hey, leave her alone!" I heard someone shout as the door to one of the cabins banged shut and a skinny guy came running, ponytail flapping, toward the deputies and their perp. The younger deputy struggled to get a plastic card out of his shirt pocket, which he began to read. "Youhavetherighttoremainsilentanythingyousaycanandwillbeusedag-" "Look, Red," said the older deputy as the skinny man got nearby. "Don't get into this." "Jane's nearly eighty now, Darryl," he said. "Why don't you let go of her?" "Tell them, Ronnie-boy. Tell them," she said, going stiff as the deputies struggled to haul her to her feet, finally standing her up like a tin woman. "She was driving around taking potshots with this," said the young deputy, hanging the pistol by the trigger guard from his pinkie, Professional- TV-Forensic-Investigator style. "It's a paintball gun," said Red. The deputies said nothing. "Did she hit anyone?" said Red. "That's not the point," said the older man, who I could see by his arm patch was the sheriff himself. He had a mustache like the kind you draw on someone's picture as a joke, and in spite of the chase, his uniform was creased and clean. "She can't be driving around shooting up the town like some damned drunken cowboy." "Cow girl ," said Red. "Cow woman ," said the old woman. "And I don't drink." "You shut up," said the young deputy, who you could see took his job way too seriously. By now people started coming out of the cabins: a huge, muscular guy with a red crew cut wearing a leather jacket over a white T-shirt; a bare-chested guy with saggy boobs, wearing black tights and smoking a cigarette in a long holder; a thin woman with blond dreadlocks; another woman from the same cabin as Red, who had on sandals and a track suit and long, straight hair; and an older frail-looking Asian woman in a housedress and curlers. Maybe the place was some kind of asylum for lunatic circus performers? "Jane's been handling firearms since she was a little girl," said Red. "If she didn't hit no one, it's because she wasn't aiming at no one." "Freaks!" I heard someone shout. Across the road behind me a carload of kids around my age had pulled up. They got out, and a couple of them sat on the hood of the car, drinking cans of soda like they were watching a drive-in movie on a sheet stretched between the splintery green poles. "Look," said the younger guy. "The sheriff, he warned you we were gonna stop cutting so much slack around here." Another carful of kids pulled up next to the first, radio blaring. The deputies started taking quick glances at the two groups-one from the cabins and the other across the road. "What do you say, Darryl?" said Red. "I'm sorry," the older man said. "But it's not like I'm the sheriff of Nottingwood or something here. You people bring it on yourselves-always having to be different. We got to take her in, I'm afraid." And in spite of protests and carrying on from the inmates, they dragged her off and put her in the back seat of the cruiser, which was parked only a few feet from me. The kids across the road started chanting: "Hip-pie scum! Hip-pie scum!" A soda can landed next to me. As the cruiser pulled away, they were whooping and hollering. A firecracker went off, a couple of people from the cabins jumped, and the guy with the red hair hit the ground. The kids laughed. I've never known any trouble that couldn't be fixed by walking away, and I turned on my heel and started to go. But I didn't get two steps before I felt a hand on my shoulder. "Nick?" said the blond, mighty-dreadlocked woman who had snuck up behind me. "Wanda?" I said. (Continues...) Excerpted from walk away home by paul many Copyright © 2002 by Paul Many Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.