It is 1974 and Theo is living with his uncle Raymond, a Vietnam vet and a loner who is struggling to hold down a job. Neither Theo nor Raymond are particularly happy to have to be living with each other. Raymond has no parenting skills and treats Theo as an indentured servant. Theo (and his passion for music) reminds Raymond of everything he didn’t like about his sister — Raymond and his sister (and her husband) were in conflict in regards to the Vietnam War.
Although Destiny, Florida is a small town, and seemingly another stop on Raymond’s wandering from job to job, Theo manages to make several important connections. First is Miss Sister Grandersole. Miss Sister runs the community’s dance school, and in the dance hall is a piano that Theo plays, despite Raymond’s objections. Second is Anabel, a girl about Theo’s age who sneaks out of dance class at every chance and plays baseball. Theo and Anabel share a love of baseball.
Author Augusta Scattergood has written a very nice tale for young readers. The time frame of 1974 seems only necessary for the Vietnam Vet PTSD, otherwise this could be set in any time frame.
What works best is that Theo is an entirely believable character who grows through the course of the book. His love of music is a passion that drives him, and Scattergood writes this in just the right way. Anyone who has an artistic passion (or any passion for that matter) understands Theo’s need to play the piano, despite his guardian’s instructions to stay away. And at the same time, Theo has a strong interest in baseball, which unites him with his peers.
I was a little skeptical that a YA book could balance the arts and sports in a positive way, but Scattergood manages this nicely.
In some respects, Theo’s uncle, Raymond, seems a little over the top, treating Theo more like a slave than even a servant. I never quite understood how Raymond, who didn’t know what to do with a sudden child, would assign him to do the laundry, which requires a very specific method of cleaning and folding. This didn’t seem quite realistic, but rather a means to paint Raymond as a villain. I’m confident it feels very believable to younger readers.
With the help of Anabel and Miss Sister (and his own determination), Theo definitely learns and grows. What’s more, Raymond manages to grow, a realistic amount, as well. The characters and their relationships are really well crafted here and will keep readers engaged in the story.
Looking for a good book? The Way to Stay in Destiny, by Augusta Scattergood, is a young adult story of learning to cope and follow dreams and taking a big step in growing up.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Way to Stay in Destiny
author: Augusta Scattergood
publisher: Scholastic Press
hardcover, 192 pages