Reviewed by John Jacobson aka "R.J. Jacobs" for TeensReadToo.com
Ry is going to a camp for the summer. He's set to leave on a train, bound for the ArcheoTrails program. Until he's not. Ry got off the train to make a call to his grandfather, who is home babysitting the family pets, and the train began to move. Without him. Trying and failing to catch up to the train, Ry's journey began. To somehow get home to his grandfather, who isn't picking up the phone, or to contact his parents, who are sailing around the islands somewhere. Along the way, he meets Del, a kind man who has his own reasons for taking a detour around the country, and who quickly builds a bond of friendship with young Ry.
AS EASY AS FALLING OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH is Lynne Ray Perkins' second novel for teens, and portrays the same breezy, poetic style that CRISS CROSS used to win the hearts of readers everywhere. Alternating chapters between the story of Ry, his forgetful grandfather, his direction-challenged parents, and comics detailing the lives of the two family dogs, Perkins crafts a fun little story that will appeal to middle grade readers.
The characters of this novel are what make it shine. Ry is a great male protagonist who has quiet yet focused goals, but is still an adolescent and unsure of the decisions that he should make. The trip changes him in many ways that readers will come to appreciate, and was my favorite part of the novel. Ry's grandfather is a little more eccentric, and isn't in the picture much. Readers will be concerned for his character, but will not connect with him on the same level as Ry. The same is very true for Ry's parents, as well. Del, another one of the many adult characters populating Perkins' novel, is a step up from Ry's relatives and is enjoyable and very three-dimensional with the romantic past he slowly reveals to Ry throughout the course of the book. However, readers of all kinds will probably enjoy the comics featuring the family dogs the most. They were particularly funny and well-written animals.
Ms. Perkins first captured me with her writing in CRISS CROSS, which was one of my favorite middle grade love story books a few years back, and it was just as strong in her sophomore novel. However, readers will find her unfocused plot a lot less appealing this time around. Ry's quest is interesting, but not very meaningful until the end, and many parts lag because of this. Nonetheless, it makes for a great book, especially for younger readers, and they will be enraptured by the delightfully elegant prose of Lynne Rae Perkins.