Notes From the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick

So maybe he made some poor drinking a fifth of whiskey, stealing his mom's car, and driving to confront his father for abandoning them to run off with his third-grade teacher. Okay, several very bad decisions ... which resulted in wrecking the car by hitting a lawn gnome, puking on a cop's shoes, a concussion, and alcohol poisoning. As you might have guessed, "Sarge" was less than thrilled. Alex is brought up on charges of drunk driving as a minor, and sentenced to community service at a local nursing home. His mother is a nurse at this particular nursing home, and assigns him one of their "challenging" residents, Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Lewis (Sol) is Jewish, and uses his considerable Yiddish skills to berrate Alex at every turn. In fact, one of his favorite phrases is "Gotcha!" Despite frequent protests, the judge is unwilling to reassign him to another patient. Sol even pulls one over on Alex's best friend Laurie (or as Sol calls her "Alex's wife"). As the days pass, and Alex begins to get to know Sol better, he finds they have something in common. Sol likes when Alex plays his guitar. Alex plays in the school jazz band, and is thrilled that they have something to share. A friendship grows between these unlikely two.

Meanwhile, Alex's parents are still at each other's throats ... and it looks like Alex's dad may be moving away. His mom keeps going on dates, and he just tries to keep his head down, hoping that he can get through it. For New Year's Eve, he and Laurie plan to throw a little party for the folks at the nursing home, and then have a sleepover. Sounds like a good plan, right? Of course, nothing goes quite as planned. Soon it becomes clear that things between Alex's parents are even more complicated than he thought ... and Sol found out about his mandatory community service, so he's mad too. All around a crummy night ...

With the help of two musical prodigies (the Cha-KINGS) from school, he begins to plan a benefit for Sol. He wants to make it up to him, and show that he really does care for the grouchy old man. After a lot of hard work, and a little awkwardness between he and Laurie, the big night comes. Of course, it wouldn't be an Alex evening without some unexpected developments. Sol is just full of surprises.

After an exhausing evening, especially for Sol, Alex has to face the facts that Sol is dying. Not today, but not very far in the future either. As the two grow closer, and learn more about one another, Alex tries to make Sol's one big dream come true. He learns a lot in the process, and causes a few goosebumps for readers. Touching, funny, awkward ... all the things a good teen novel should be - and a great book for boys.
"'Anyway, I read that book last year. Great, isn't it?'
'Who the hell are you? I've never seen you before in my life. Nurse. NURSE! Help! There's a thief in my room. I think he wants to -'
This was alarming. 'Mr. Lewis, wait! I'm just your ... um ... I'm Alex.'
'Help! Alex, the Um, is here to get me. NURSE!'
Claudelle came pounding through the doorway. 'Mr. Lewis, calm down. It's okay.' She gestured to me. 'This is just ...'
'Alex, the Um.' Then Mr. Lewis started laughing so hard I thought he might start choking again. 'Gotcha! Alex, the Um! Boy are you two gullible," (Sonnenblick pg. 56-57, 2006).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
The Schwa was Here by Neal Schusterman
The Juvie Three by Gordon Korman

Sonnenblick, Jordan. (2006). Notes From the Midnight Driver. New York: Scholastic.

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