Monday, August 23, 2010

Checkered Flag Cheater

Hailing from Indianapolis, I may have a greater interest in car racing than most, but I can't get enough of Will Weaver's Motor Series. I just finished Checkered Flag Cheater, the third in the series, which finds Trace Bonham racing on the super-stock circuit for Team Blu. His face graces billboards advertising his corporate sponsor’s sports energy drink, and he is the next boy wonder on the track. However, when Trace begins to suspect that his mechanic is illegally juicing his car, he struggles with what to do.

Saturday Night Dirt, the first book in the Motor Series, introduces ten characters of varying ages and ethnicities who all are involved in the world of car racing at Headwaters Speedway, a small dirt stock-car track in northern Minnesota. One Saturday night, when rainstorms at other tracks force cancellations at other tracks, big name racers join the local kids at Headwaters for a night they’ll all remember. Weaver fleshes out each character enough to leave a lasting impression on readers. The track owner is Johnny Walters, a former racer left paralyzed after a severe crash. His 17-year-old daughter Mel struggles to keep her father's track financially solvent. Promising stock-car racer, Trace Bonham, finds that his jealous mechanic has sabotaged his engine. Other racers who are introduced include Beau Kim and Sonny Down Wind. Additional track personnel round out the group. Racing terminology is accurate and the play by play of the races is exhilarating.

In Super Stock Rookie, the second book in the series, Trace Bonham is chosen as the face of Team Blu and now has a hot stock car and his own racing team. Overnight he makes the transition from amateur dirt-track racing to representing a large company as the face of their new sports energy drink. However, he has to go on the road, leaving behind Mel who haunts his dreams, as well as his parents whose marriage is on the rocks. As he questions the legality of his engine and the way his team operates and he is told to just worry about the driving and looking good, he begins to wonder if he made the right choice.

The third book, Checkered Flag Cheater, takes up where the second left off. Trace is now the leader in the competion for points on the Midwest super stock circuit. His romance with Mel is heating up, even as he is tempted by "fence bunnies" while on the road. As he racks up one win after another and the other racing teams begin to protest his car's engine, he begins to wonder what's behind its superior performance. His own racing team continues to tell him just to worry about the driving. When he finally discovers the truth, he must decide whether to look the other way or quit Team Blu and jeopardize his racing career.

According to his book bio, "Will Weaver lives in Bemidji, Minnesota, and is the owner of two Modified cars which he reaces in the WISSOTA circuit in the upper Midwest." He definitely knows his way around under the hood of a car and his insider information about racing strategy and technique seem very realistic. This series would be a great recommendation for reluctant readers. A few non-graphic romantic scenes lead me to caution against giving it to younger students.

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