Turn Left at the Cow

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2016

By Lisa Bullard, Reviewed by Max T. Smith

Turn Left at the Cow book cover

Turn Left at the Cow, by Lisa Bullard;
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: New York,
2013; $16.99

When I read this book, I realized right away how it got its name. In the first part of the book, when the main character, Travis, is describing the setting of the book and how rural it is, he says, “I stared out the window, wondering how this place could qualify as a state. How would GPS even work? ‘Turn left at the cow?’” The book never refers to “turn left at the cow” again, but I think the title symbolizes that Travis doesn’t know the environment very well and he thinks that there is not a lot of fun stuff in this boring town.

So now, you might be wondering, why would Travis come to this town? It doesn’t seem like he really likes it. I should probably explain a little more. Travis’s mom divorced his dad just before Travis was born because his dad had committed a lot of crimes. So Travis had lived with his mom all his life and had gotten quite used to it. Then, out of the blue, his mom announces that she is going to get married and that she and Travis are going to move to L.A.

Travis does not like this plan, so he decides to run away. He uses his mom’s credit card to buy a plane ticket and a bus ticket to his grandma’s (on his dad’s side) house in Minnesota. When he arrives, he calls his grandma and asks her to pick him up. She says yes, but she will have to call Travis’s mom and tell her that he is all right. Have you ever not wanted to tell your parents something, but someone says that you have to? I have. It made me worry that I would be trusted less. That is what Travis feels like. But he says OK.

This is where it gets exciting. A boy and a girl who live in town visit the house to welcome Travis. They tell Travis a news story from years ago that he never knew: after leaving Travis, his dad had robbed a bank and the money was probably hidden under a lake. The boy and girl are looking for the money and Travis agrees to help them. But what should Travis and his friends do when there is someone else looking for the money?

And the other person looking for the money is… I’ll leave that for you to read.

Before sharing my final thoughts about the book, let me tell you something: authors do not need to put any romantic stuff in a story. None. If I were you, I would just skip all the romantic parts of the story. Don’t worry; they are not part of the plot.

To conclude, I thought that this book would be like Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, which I didn’t really like, but it is in a class of its own. It is like a mystery, but without a lot of clues. At first, I inferred that this book took place in an old-fashioned city because it had weird games like a chicken pooping on a number to determine the winner of the lottery. But this is actually a weird city in a modern time. This book is funny and a quick read.

Turn Left at the Cow Max T. Smith

Max T. Smith, 10
Evanston, Illinois

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