Krystal's Reviews > The Car Thief

The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner
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's review
Jun 15, 2012

really liked it

Sixteen year-old Alex Housman steals cars and skips school, almost hoping to get caught. His younger brother was taken away to live with his re-married mother who never bothers to see her oldest son, Alex. His alcoholic, divorced father works in a Michigan auto factory. Alex fantasizes about a girl in his high school, but ends up being stalker-like, despite her initial friendly attitude. Once he’s caught for stealing cars, Alex ends up in juvenile detention where he meets an assortment of lost, misfit boys like himself.
Weesner sets his story in 1959, and he mentions in the introduction that it is somewhat autobiographical. This is a re-release, originally published in 1972. The story reminds me of Catcher in the Rye, the novel we all had to read in high school. These two stories fall into the “read them because you have to” category for me. As a teen, I sometimes felt the undirected energy, purposeless confusion, lack of care that Weesner describes so poignantly. As a boy, Alex seems to also feel the need to punch or be punched…needing some recklessness and danger to feel alive. However, his perpetual boredom with his life also comes through. When an adviser suggests various jobs, Alex takes on a paper route and then later caddies at a country club. Having work seems to improve his outlook. The novel’s ending is not unexpected, but is uneventfully, quietly sad.
As a teen, this story would have made me uncomfortable. Some of the feelings are too close to home then. As an adult, I feel so sorry for Alex’s father – who shyly, genuinely seems to love his son. With such a broken home and so many problems, the story draws you into their world, but you don’t want to be there. If this was a neighbor, I would want to help, but I would feel the situation to be nearly hopeless. This is a novel that should be read for its insights and its great writing. Those of us who read for inspiration, excitement, and optimistic thoughts may only feel disturbed and anxious.

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