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Book Review: Notes from the Midnight Driver By Jordan Sonnenblick

This funny and uplifting novel, Notes From the Midnight Driver, puts a fun spin on the usual YA format. With hilarious characters, one crushed lawn gnome, and an unlikely friendship, it’s sure to be a great read for young and old alike.

PARENT REVIEW | Jody Podl

My daughter, Rachel, does not like books that are sad. This preference limits her reading options significantly. So much young adult literature tends to focus on heavy and serious subjects. That includes a lot of violence and sadness.  At the same time, some beautiful books are too babyish to appeal to her. Jordan Sonnenblick’s Notes from the Midnight Driver provides the perfect solution: a tale about teenagers that deals with pretty serious stuff in a positive way.

We meet Alex Gregory as he recovers from a concussion and alcohol poisoning the day after he takes his mom’s car after drinking, hitting a lawn gnome in the process. Right away the juxtaposition of a dangerous and scary incident with a somewhat ludicrous result sets the tone for the novel.

Convinced that he has caused no significant damage and, like every teenager I know, certain that he is not to blame—after all, if his dad hadn’t left his mom and his mom hadn’t gone out on a date, he never would have taken a drink or gotten behind the wheel—he is shocked to find out that he is sentenced to 100 hours of community service working at a nursing home. Thus begins Alex’s relationship with the crotchety Solomon Lewis.

At first, it seems that the two couldn’t be more ill-suited for each other. But slowly they begin to build a friendship. I love how Sonnenblick draws both of these characters, and I found myself chuckling over their interactions. For instance, Sonnneblick captures Solomon’s joy and Alex’s indignation when Solomon hustles Alex during a poker game, winning close to thirty bucks. The novel also includes notes Alex writes to the judge asking to be reassigned. But over time, we see his attachment to Solomon grow.

Slowly, Alex realizes that he needs to stop being so self-centered. As he takes an interest in Sol’s past, he comes to understand that he is not the only one who is disappointed and angry. These discoveries allow him to channel his energy toward more positive pursuits like organizing a concert at the nursing home and mending fences with his parents.

Perhaps most importantly, Alex learns the power of forgiveness. He recognizes that even the people we love aren’t perfect, but we need to love and support them.

Overall, Notes from the Midnight Driver was a fun and light read. I found myself getting attached to both Alex and Sol, two great foils who end up being much more similar than different. Reading the novel also reminded me, once again, of how much we all have to learn from each other.

Jody Podl is a teacher at Shaker Heights High School.


TEEN REVIEW | Rachel Podl

When your parents get divorced and your mom is about to go on her first date, what’s the most logical thing to do? In the book, Notes From the Midnight Driver, by Jordan Sonnenblick, the main character’s plan is to get drunk and take his mom’s car out for a spin. He intends to go see his dad, who has left his mom and him for Alex’s third grade teacher. Alex doesn’t even make it one block.
Though a lawn gnome is the only casualty, Alex Gregory still gets himself into a world of trouble because of this genius idea. The court summons him to spend 100 hours with Solomon Lewis, an old Jewish man, who has his own story to tell.

What starts off as a terrible match turns into a great friendship. In the beginning, Sol spews rude insults, and Alex would rather be anywhere else. So they struggle to connect or even to be nice to each other. Ultimately, their passion for music draws them closer, and they form a strong bond. Sol helps Alex with guitar and offers guidance about Laurie, Alex’s love interest. Along the way, astonishing information about Sol’s past is revealed. And Alex begins to connect and really care for his newfound friend.

I didn’t want to put this book down. The main character is full of wit, and the story takes a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Unlike most authors, Sonnenblick dives straight into the plot from the beginning, not missing a beat.

This story truly captures the challenges of being a teenager. Alex has to deal with his parents’ on-again off-again relationship, and he struggles with girl troubles and school. Eventually, he transforms into a more sympathetic person who cares about other people and not just himself.

Alex also learns that something can come from nothing. Sol, who gave him a difficult time in the beginning, really cares about Alex.  Sol becomes an important friend who points Alex in the right direction, and their friendship turns Alex’s life around.

Rachel Podl is a student in Shaker Heights Ohio.