The Last Ride by James A. Thomas
Published by James. A. Thomas
Camelia is a recently orphaned teen who has to make it to her estranged grandparents' home in South Dakota or face foster care. But she's too young to travel alone, and she doesn't have enough money.
Bear is Camelia's neighbor, an aging biker with a terminal illness who is determined to make one last run to the big Harley riders' meet in Sturgis.
Camelia talks Bear into taking her along, since her grandparents live less than thirty miles from Sturgis.
Together with Bear's younger sister and a friend, they take off on Harleys, planning on going the long way and soaking up the scenery.
Things go well for a while, and it really is a dream vacation. Then people they meet start turning up dead. The group learns that a mass murderer known as the Northwest Killer is operating in the area. That's bad enough, but it soon becomes apparent that they are somehow psychically linked to the man.
For Camelia, it becomes less a matter of reaching her grandparents than of simply staying alive.
The Last Ride is a road novel, with death riding along. While it’s technically a young adult book because of Camelia's age (14), adults who don't require sex or four-letter words in their reading material should find it an interesting read.
I love a good road trip book and the journey from southern California up into northern California, into Oregon and then Washington, and then the long trek across Montana and into South Dakota was a fun ride. I loved the scenery and was excited when they stopped for the night at a motel only a few miles from my home. The trip from Washington on was one I've made several times (though I took the interstate) as I'm from Sturgis, SD. That's my home town (and I live in Washington now). And journeying there with Camelia, Bear, Mac and Dori was a lot of fun. And made me just a bit homesick. I wasn't able to take the trip home this summer, so this was my trip. And when things went wrong I was right there urging them on, to figure it all out, to overcome things. As it seems that they just draw trouble at every corner. And when the NW killer part came up I was definitely freaked out and just waiting to see who would end up dead next. It was a little freaky and I liked that.
Now, I did enjoy the book quite a lot, but I had a few issues. I thought that the NW killer portion of the book was rather small and maybe should have stretched across more of the book. And I wish that it had been more of a mystery as we 'meet' the killer (which was definitely freaky!) but it was figured out 'who' it was straight away. I mean, it wasn't immediate, but there wasn't a real mystery to it. And them being 'psychically' linked, I didn't really get that either I guess. And while I loved the road trip aspect and seeing every turn they made, it was rather drawn out. I wanted to keep reading, but I felt a bit impatient. So I can imagine that a lot of teens wouldn't stick around for all the details.
Camelia was a good character, but not a great character. I didn't dislike her or anything, but I guess I felt like she wasn't authentic. She was a character, not a real person to me. This isn't really a big deal to me in the whole scene of things, but it brought it down a bit and I think bears mentioning. I really liked Bear and the sayings he seemed to have about everything. And I've met many bikers that are just like him. Good people and not some big scary dude. Well, sometimes they look scary, but they aren't really.
The book is pretty well written but it was a little weird for me. It was third person, present tense (I believe) and just read differently. I got use to it and it wasn't a big issue. I also found some editing errors but they weren't super frequent. I also noticed that twice it said Grand Rapids instead of Rapid City, which threw me at first. Confused me for a moment.
Now I know I pointed out quite a lot that sounds negative, but I did enjoy the book. And the journey from Belle Fourche to Sturgis and into downtown was one that had me tearing up. I miss home! And I could just hear the rumble of the motorcycles. It's rally time right now and I wish I could be walking down Main Street right now taking it all in! I am most definitely ready for a road trip and I'm glad that I got to go on a bit of one in this book.
There's really so much more I could talk about. Camelia has gone through loss and is an orphan. She is a teenager with the body of a preteen. She has adults coming at her from all side talking about the environment and living healthy and the economy. There's kind of a lot going on and I feel like the author was squeezing some messages in. I actually agree with them, but felt like maybe it was a little obvious. Anyway, it was a good read and a fun journey!
Disclosure: I received this book from the author for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.