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The Beet Fields: Memories of a Sixteenth Summer

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  357 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
For a 16-year-old boy out in the world alone for the first time, every day's an education in the hard work and boredom of migrant labor; every day teaches him something more about friendship, or hunger, or profanity, or lust--always lust. He learns how a poker game, or hitching a ride, can turn deadly.
He discovers the secret sadness and generosity to be found on a lonely
Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published September 12th 2000)
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28th out of 64 books — 30 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 857)
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May 25, 2012 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book by the author of Hatchet will probably appeal to slightly older boys but NOT to their parents. This book is grittier and tells of a young man's coming of age but involves that taboo subject, sex. It also involves working as a migrant laborer, being cheated by white farmers but being aided his fellow laborers, being robbed by a crooked policeman, being sheltered by an old woman who's lost a son and even, for a time, working as a carny.

At just 160 pages, this book is a fast read and wil
Hannah G
Aug 21, 2011 Hannah G rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The end is totally inappropriate.... It wrecked the book for me...
Ash Rocketship
Mar 28, 2015 Ash Rocketship rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
My first Gary Paulsen, chosen for taking place in my current home of North Dakota. A nice, quick read with artful and easy rhythmic language. Felt like a book old white guys would be intensely nostalgic about. Enjoyable though.
Raylee Gifford
This novel follows the story of the boy as he works during his first summer on his own. He runs away from home when he is 16 and finds a job thinning beats. He learns a lot from the migrant workers that he works with as they take care of eachother and he finds a family of sorts. As a group they move from farm to farm until he finally leaves them for a tractor job. After working on this farm for a while he is taken in by the local police for being a runaway. After stealing all of his money the de ...more
Evan Hall
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 10, 2014 Allison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

"The boy" in this book (that is what he is called throughout) runs away from his drunken (and inappropriate) parents at the beginning of the book and the rest of the book follows him running way through different parts of America. As he is on the run, he grows up, encounters many of the different types of people that make up America (farmers, Mexican field-workers, European immigrants, war-victim's families, carnies, police, to name a few) and learns about their live
Apr 30, 2014 Caitlin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, young lust.
Let's face it, I picked up this book as a young teen girl because it had a shirtless boy on the front cover. Hormones. Sue me.

What I didn't expect was that lust was the river this ferryboat novel sailed on. The themes, the plot, none of that mattered so much as sex and strippers.

It would be one thing if sex was a motif or a scene of the book. I might like it if the themes of family and belonging were the focus. But they weren't. And since the target audience for this book seems to
Brandon Solomon
Mar 10, 2016 Brandon Solomon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Spoiler Alert******
"The Beet Fields" by Gary Paulsen was a great book. The book was about a sixteen year old boy. His parents were both drunks and he hated living a life with his drunk parents, so he took off to find a better life. The first place the boy ended up was at a beet farm. This was his first job. He worked with a group of mexicans hoeing beets all day. He only made $11.00 a day while also paying for food and his hoe. He made friends with the mexicans, and soon set off from the farm b
Known only in the book as âœthe boy,â a 16-year-old escapes his broken home and drunken parents to survive on his own. He starts out as a migrant worker laboring in beet fields alongside the more adept Mexicans. A farmer later hires him to drive a tractor to work his fields. After being arrested by the sheriff for being a suspected runaway, the boy escapes and ends up hitching a ride with an older woman who takes him in for awhile and has him help repair machinery. Next he joins a traveling carn ...more
Ashlyn Anderson
May 26, 2014 Ashlyn Anderson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: boys grades 8-12
Shelves: ya-classroom
I really enjoyed reading Paulsen's writing style. Though I don't consider myself in the author's target audience for this book, I still found the protagonist's voice authentic and at times entertaining. I married into a family of five boys (no girls), and sometimes I laughed out loud while reading the boy's inner monologue because it reminds me exactly of the things I have heard my husband and his brothers say. For that reason, I think boys in grades 8 through 12 would really like this book. The ...more
Doug Sacks
Nov 27, 2011 Doug Sacks rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-titles
I thoroughly enjoyed the build-up of this story and the descriptions of the boy's jobs and adventures along the way. I felt the opening was so well written where we get a brief but telling glimpse of the boy's disfunctional family life - BUT - I did not like the ending, not because of the topic of teenage sex, which Paulsen did a good job with, including his inexperience not seeming stupid or funny, but just ... normal. I did not like the ending because it felt disconnected from his previous jou ...more
By having the name "Gary Paulsen" on the cover, most librarians/readers would assume that this book is another great read for boys. Hatchet is one of my go-to books for middle school boys, and if they like that - well there are a ton more where that came from. I say, "Here are the Gary Paulsen books if you want to read more by him." and let them browse.

This book is not meant for middle school boys.
* First off, it's a slow story. There are moments of 'adventure' but for t
Cody Anderson
This was a real good book if you like the outdoors and farming. It was about a boy who ran away from home because his parents love to drink all the time. He was young with no food, or home,and he was living on the streets with no money. He came to a farm that needed help on the beet fields. The farm owner gave him a job and he was working in the fields everyday from dust till dawn. He worked with a family of Mexicans who didn't really talk to him, until one day and he became close to them. Whan ...more
Nov 02, 2011 Brandon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good book because some of the thing you don't even see coming. because first he is working with some Mexicans. and he learns how to eat like them. because he was eating the samwiches he had to buy from the farmer and they weren't very good. so he started to eat with the Mexicans. but he didn't have any money to put in and so the would clime up in the barn and kill pidgins. and then after that farm. they moved to another and he had to work on the tractor.And he saw the farmers daughter ...more
Tadd Gestrin
Gary Paulsen is a wonderful writer. He manages to create a world in which the actions and subtle details from a character's experience come to life in a powerful and evocative way. The Beet Fields is such a story. Every episode in the book is filled with the crushing reality of life. Through it all, Paulsen helps us come to understand the pangs of finding your way in a world where the right path is unclear and survival is measured in the likelihood of finding a next meal.
Mandy Roth
Oct 25, 2010 Mandy Roth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Gary Paulsen/ Country/boy teen fiction

A teenage boy runs away from a disturbing and broken family to make his own way in the world by working out in the beet fields. He works hard only to be taken advantage of, thus needing to move on once more. He catches a ride from a stranger which ends in disaster, works for an old woman, then becomes a carnie where he finally loses his virginity. The end.

That's what the book is. One summer of a boy who comes from a weird family and lives a weird life. The b
Dave Kiersh
Sep 19, 2012 Dave Kiersh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This short autobiographical book is similair to Paulsen's novel Tiltawhirl John.
I loved both. Paulsen describes, in the third person, his sixteenth summer.
He runs away from home, works in the beet fields and then for a farmer. He has his money stolen by a cop and escapes from prison. While hitchiking, his driver is killed in a freak accident by a pheasant smashing through the windshield. Then he gets picked up by a mentally unstable old lady who tries to make him a surrogate son. When they go vi
Erica Karcher
Sep 10, 2011 Erica Karcher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gary Paulsen, you crazy author! I did not expect as much from this book as I got out of it. Paulsen is awesome, and this story, which veers away from what you think of when you think "Gary Paulsen" (i.e. Hachet, Tucket, Iditarod), is a real history lesson wrapped into fiction. The main character, who has no name, is a 16-year-old boy trying to escape a bad life and make some money to both survive and move on to better things. What he learns over this summer in what I'm guessing is sometime in th ...more
The only other Gary Paulsen book I have read is The Hatchet, and I read it in fifth grade. Choosing this book I decided to look for something a little different. This book is definitely different from the typical books by Gary Paulsen. The book follows the story of a young boy who runs away from home. In order to survive, he works on a few farms, with an older woman, and eventually in a carnival. It is a coming of age novel where he learns about hard work, friendship, and lust.

This is short book
Sep 02, 2011 Evelyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: engl-420-yal

That was my reaction when I finished this book. It's your typical YA novel of a troubled youth searching for identity and redemption. His dad is lost at war, his mom's a drunk and he runs away in an adventure full of arbitrary encounters resembling Holden Caulfield's own search for self in Catcher in the Rye. Gary Paulsen claims that in writing this book he achieved a greater sense of honesty than in his other novels. And perhaps it is an honest reflection of disillusionment in life. By the e
Jenny Maiorano
This book was a great read, but I really disliked the ending. I was hoping that there was going to be a bigger life moment.
An odd and improbable book, but I liked it more than I anticipated. The depictions of migrant workers were great and other characters were pretty improbable. He joins a group of carnies for heavens sake! But the writing is excellent and the fact that its semi autobiographical is intriguing.
Aug 16, 2013 Deanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this in a day. Easy read, but not too interesting. I read this for summer reading and I only picked it because it was the only one on the list I could find at the library. Usually summer reading books for school aren't very interesting but are there to test your reading ability and reading comprehension. This book was written well telling the story of a boy (whose name goes unmentioned) and his life after running away from home. the ending was the worst part. Not because of the sexual conte ...more
Dan B
Mar 30, 2011 Dan B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Review:

The Beet Fields

Star Rating: 4

Hook: You are in a police station because you are a runaway and the cop takes all of your money that you had worked hard for for a whole summer. This is the life of the boy in this story.

Paragraph: In this book, a boy runs away from home in search of a new begining. He is 16 and he decides to work in the fields of the mid west. Here he meets a variety of people including a Carnival Manager who he gets a job with and that is how the story ends.

Rebecca McNutt
I really liked this book, although I think it could've used a lot more detail than what it had. It was a great story all the same.
Beth O'Connell
I've had this checked out to see if it's OK for our library, but I didn't really feel like reading it. Down to my last 3 books, I finally got through it. It wasn't bad for a coming-of-age story (Paulsen's writing is always good), but the ending was a little over-the-top for middle school. There's also a brief but horrible car wreck. Plus, I don't think they'd be really interested in it. It's probably fine for high school.
sweet pea
this memoir chronicles a rather tumultuous summer with molesting moms, agricultural work, deadly pheasants, crazy ladies, and work as a carny. while the individual elements were engaging, the transitions were abrupt and disconcerting. the series of families he creates he leaves without notice. the final sentence angered me greatly. that was the only lesson you learned? an interesting if somewhat scattered read.
Mara Shaw
Itinerant farm work in the beet fields is eye-opening for a teenage boy in 1955 and yet the story is vitually timeless. He learns, connects with the Mexican farm families, and grows into a man. The Beet Fields is honest, well-written and a reminder that life is lived not behind a computer, but by engaging in real work, allowing relationships and situations come and go and moving on.

Aug 09, 2011 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Autobiographically based, Paulsen shares his summer working in the beet fields with a Mexican family who welcomes them into their fold and his first encounter with "love" with a circus hootchie-kootchie dancer. Beautifully done coming of age story that will resonate with teenage guys. Sadly, this one did not get the attention it deserved. I think it is one of Paulsen's best.
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Although he was never a dedicated student, Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age. After a librarian gave him a book to read--along with his own library card--he was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.

Running away from home at the age of 14 and traveling with a carnival, Paulsen acquired a taste for adve
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