Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 3 Critic Reviews



"One day you're that guy who's happy he managed to survive high school and get that almighty piece of paper, and you're thinking you might try to get a job at Redi-Mix concrete where your dad's worked since the beginning of time. And at least you've got a family you can stand even if they are all sisters.

One day you're that guy, and the next day you're assigned to a social worker and a therapist and given the choice of either being a LEGAL ADULT with three DEPENDENTS or an ORPHAN with NOBODY." --From Back Roads

Harley Altmyer should be in college drinking Rolling Rock and chasing girls. He should be freed from his closed-minded, stricken coal town, with its lack of jobs and no sense of humor. Instead, he's constantly reminded of just how messed up his life is.

With his mother in jail for killing his abusive father, Harley is an orphan with the responsibilities of an adult and the fiery, aggressive libido of a teenager. Just nineteen years old, he's marooned in the Pennsylvania backwoods caring for his three younger sisters, whose feelings about him range from stifling dependence to loathing. And once he develops an obsession with the sexy, melancholic mother of two living down the road, those Victoria's Secret catalogs just won't do the trick anymore. He wants Callie Mercer so badly he fears he will explode. But it's the family secrets, the lies, and the unspoken truths that light the fuse and erupt into a series of staggering surprises, leaving what's left of his family in tatters. Through every ordeal, the unforgettable Harley could never know that his endearing humor, his love for his sisters, and his bumbling heroics would redeem them all.

Funny and heartbreaking, Tawni O'Dell's pitch-perfect characters capture the maddening confusion of adolescence and the prickly nature of family with irony and unerring honesty. Back Roads is a riveting novel by a formidable new talent.


About Tawni O'Dell

See more books from this Author
Tawni O'Dell was born and raised in the Allegheny mountains of western Pennsylvania.
Published January 1, 2001 by NAL. 421 pages
Genres: Children's Books, Literature & Fiction, Professional & Technical. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Back Roads

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

O—Dell does an impressive job of getting inside the head of a member of the opposite sex, creating a first-person narration of painful veracity as Harley rants against his mother and defends his father (—He didn—t like his job, but he went to it every day .

| Read Full Review of Back Roads

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

Nineteen-year-old Harley is left to rear his three younger sisters after their mother is imprisoned for murdering their abusive father in this searing, hardscrabble Party of Five set in Pennsylvania mining country.

| Read Full Review of Back Roads

AV Club

See more reviews from this publication

Life has always been hard for Harley Altmeyer, the protagonist and narrator of Tawni O'Dell's Back Roads, but never harder than since his mother went to prison for murdering his father, leaving him alone to care for his three sisters.

Mar 29 2002 | Read Full Review of Back Roads

Reader Rating for Back Roads

An aggregated and normalized score based on 458 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review