Monday, March 4, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: FOURMILE

FOURMILE by Watt Key (Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2012)

What it's About (Goodreads blurb): 

Twelve-year-old Foster knows in his gut that Dax Ganey, the man dating his widowed mother, is a bad seed. Then a mysterious stranger arrives at their Alabama farm, a former Army Ranger in Iraq rambling across the country, and Foster believes he has found an ally against Dax. The stranger proves a fascinating mentor, full of wisdom and secrets. And Dax soon has reason to resent not just him and Foster but also Foster’s mother. A spurned Dax will be a dangerous enemy, but Foster is increasingly aware that the stranger is just as dangerous, if not more so.

Opening Lines: 

I heard Mother calling, but I didn't answer. I lay in the scattered hay and stared at the afternoon sunbeams angling through the big bay doors of the barn. Against the wall were damp, moldy bales that had been in the same place for over a year. They smelled more of wet dirt and decay than anything fresh-cut. Two sheets of tin had blown off the roof during the winter and the place was rotting. There was too much to do now. Mother and I couldn't keep up."

Why I Liked It:

This novel was a Cybils finalist, and I found it a compelling, if tough read. As you can see from the opening lines, Watt Key is a master of setting and does a beautiful job of describing this rundown farm on the edge of the town of Fourmile. The place is going to seed because Foster's (the main character's) father has been killed in an accident and his mother has become involved with a nasty piece of work called Dax Ganey. 

Watt Key also does a marvelous job of creating well-rounded characters, and imbuing their situation with menace. The reader cares about Foster, and whether he and his mother will be able to escape Dax's orbit, while at the same time being drawn into questions about just who Gary--the former army ranger--is.

There are scenes of violence (and animal cruelty) in this book which, while integral to the story, might make it a difficult book for the "tender-hearted" reader. It is certainly at the upper end of middle grade, and might be characterized as a "boy book." If you have a boy in your life who is scrabbling about for something compelling to read, I would recommend taking a look at FOURMILE. 

About The Author:

Watt Key hails from Alabama and is the author of two other novels, Alabama Moon and Dirt Road Home.  You can find out more about him at his website.


  1. Sounds like a kind of heavy book but a good one. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. I could hear that 'roughness' you refer to from the opening lines and the blurb. It sounds like an amazing read for maybe an older MGer; it also has a strong 'feel' for an MG read. Really unique. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. My son loved ALABAMA MOON by Watt Key, so I'm sure he'd like this one too (even though he's a few years older now and reading mostly adult books).

  4. My 8th grade boys have been passing this around-- one came back and wanted to read it again. So good!

  5. I dig it. I'll have to add this to my ever-growing reading list.

  6. I haven't heard of this book, so thanks for the heads-up. Your Cybils "homework" certainly exposed you to a lot of wonderful reads.

  7. If, as Ms. Yingling says, 8th grade boys are passing it around, that's quite a testimony right there. Sounds like another fine upper middle grade read.


  8. Sounds really compelling-sometimes tough reads are the ones you carry around with you for a while. Right?

  9. Wow! This sounds like a very powerful book. It sounds like a book that is tough, but well worth the read. Thanks for sharing.


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