title: Surf Mules
author: Greg Neri
Publisher: G. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2009
main character: Logan
After having read and enjoyed Chess Rumble, I was looking forward to reading Neri’s latest book, Surf Mules. This book was his first endeavor as a YA author. In this book, Neri brings us into the world of three close friends. Fin dies in an opening surf scene. Z-boy isn’t very book smart, but he can come through when you need him and he’s as loyal as a puppy. Logan has actually managed to graduate high school and is planning to go to college, but the family’s savings have been lost by his father’s gambling. Logan is trying to transition to manhood, but dad has not left much of a positive impact on his son. Logan has few resources to draw on to make a decision: few values, no identified path to success and no reason to believe that a half-baked plan might work. Fin’s father, Buddy, has been somewhat of a male presence for the boys, but doesn’t his name say it all? He and his surfer friends have lived by the surfer code, surfing most of their lives away. Drugs, specifically marijuana, are easily accepted into this life and Logan and Z-boy are soon offered the opportunity to make a lot of money carrying marijuana across country. Logan knows the real decision whether to act as mules rests with him. He has a wisdom that Z-boy by does not. For Z-boy its all about a quick buck but for Logan, it could get him money for college or it could get him a felony charge that would ruin almost any career before it begins. Where can you go guidance? When you’re a young man really trying to do something different from those around you, how can you find someone you can trust to guide you in a way that benefits your own interest? Logan has one of the roughest coming of age tales I’ve ha d told in quite a while.
I haven’t been much into surfing since Gidget movies, but I found Neri’s surf scenes to be clearly written, exciting and quick paced. I was guided into the surfing world by a capable dude who didn’t lose me with tedious details but who didn’t talk down to the majority of readers who don’t know surfing. While we think of surfers as macho men who treat their boards with more respect than their women, Neri creates Emmie, a love interest for Logan that he truly respects and they’re able to communicate as equals. This is Logan’s story with Emmie having a minor role, but she is intelligent, confident and athletic. While Neri’s character seems to accept marijuana as a natural substance that can’t harm us, there is a powerful message about who is involved in the drug trade, who profits from it and who gets hurt.
There’s much to like about this book, from the humor and the well developed characters to the originality of the story and the complex themes which could lead to deep discussion. Neri is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and I’m really looking forward to Yummy in early 2010.