One of the best book review blogs out there is called Bookslut. As you can tell by the name, it has a female, somewhat irreverent point of view. In their August issue, Colleen Mondor wrote this review of Clear Heart:
Clear Heart is a realistic, if somewhat turbulent, look at the lives of hard working men in the California construction business. Anchored by two characters, Wally the contractor and Abe, the teenager he employs and befriends, it includes numerous secondary characters all of whom revolve around a plot based on building houses in a business climate that does not always reward honesty. When Wally finds himself teetering on the edge of bankruptcy after a client turns out to be a liar and a cheat (and an appallingly bad businessman), it is only through the good will he has engendered over the years with the people who work with him that he has a shot at saving everything he loves. Abe, swinging a hammer for the first time in his life, becomes a student of male behavior in the midst of all this drama, the new kid who is at first the victim of harmless pranks but soon graduates to dedicated apprentice and valued crewmember. Abe sees the kind of decent man Wally is and finds a great deal of value in his life and the lives of those who are part of his world. In the end, author Joe Cottonwood succeeds on multiple levels with the novel, from exploring the nature of responsible relationships, both romantic and friendly, to revealing the high value and reward of an honest day's work. There is also, at a very critical juncture, a road trip.
The road trip is the kind of frenzied last minute rescue that brings the book to its soaring conclusion and wraps up multiple relationships. Abe and "FrogGirl," a second apprentice (the name is quirky at first but becomes very significant), set off in a temperamental vehicle to transport a large bell from the east coast to the west. Nothing works out the way it should and Abe ends up questioning love. It's funny, very tender, and enormously, tremendously human. In fact, Clear Heart just might be one of the most human books I've read in a long time.
Life is good today.
Update (a day later): Apparently there was supposed to be a third paragraph in the review - a caution to teen readers about "sex of a real and raw nature" - which has now been restored on the Bookslut web site. Here it is:
Clear Heart was written for adults but Abe and FrogGirl are key to the story and both of them are transformed in significant ways. There is no mystery here, just a dozen small moments of hard work and deep thoughts and why both are important. There’s some sex of the real and raw nature (as in actually doing it as opposed to just talking about it) so older teens only on this one but for the right kid -- for the one who wants to know what to do with their life but isn’t sure how to work that out -- this book could very well be transformative. And if the kid likes to build things, well then, it’s perfect.
Though I wrote Clear Heart for adult readers, my books always have appealed strongly to teens as well, so the caution is appropriate. Is "sex of the real and raw nature" going to keep people from reading the book? You have been warned...