Diener's Reviews > Lean On Pete
Lean On Pete
I saw this book prominently displayed at my local independent bookstore a couple of weeks ago. I read the back cover and discovered that the writer lives in Oregon, and that the story is mostly set in Portland. So I was instantly intrigued. I then scanned excerpts of the positive reviews found on the first page of the book and then wrote the name of the book down on the back of a business card I had in my money clip. A couple of days later, I checked out this book and another Willy Vlautin book entitled Northline from the library. I devoured Lean on Pete in about 3-4 sittings. What some critics say about Vlautin being a 21st century Steinbeck certainly rings true. Vlautin's prose is simple on the surface, but there is so much to unpack underneath the surface that one reading probably does not do this novel justice. For three of the five years I spent as a high school English teacher, I taught Of Mice and Men to my 11th-grade English students and felt the same way about that book. I had not previously read of Mice and Men when I first taught the book to my students. We read the book aloud in class, and because I taught four sections of 11th grade English, I was able to read the book four times that first year I taught it. And I remember how fun it was to discover new treasures with my students, complex treasures buried underneath, and sometimes even just below, what appears to be a fairly simple surface. And so it probably is with Lean on Pete and other Vlautin novels. If I were still teaching, I would definitely teach Lean on Pete, whose protagonist is a 15-year-old boy, to my students.
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