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The story’s time period is never mentioned but it is believably in present time, due to the use of computers and cell phones and other modern-day technology.
This story has many characters with various personalities that keep the story interesting. It gives the book a couple of different things to think about at once. The main character is Duff Pringle, a twenty-ish-year-old computer genius who lives in Virginia and is set on his way to get a computer programming job opening in Los Angeles. He knows a lot about computers and claims to always think like one. But his knowledge of cars is minimal. This is really what gets Duff stuck in “Car Trouble”.
The story kicks off right away as Duff is leaving his parents’ house in Richmond, Virginia. He is beginning his journey to Los Angeles to be a computer programmer. He leaves his home town in his used three-thousand dollar, white, Ford Escort. He bought the car from the owner of a pizza shop down the street strictly for the long trip. Duff didn’t care much about cars, as longs as they get him from place to place. Duff pulls onto the highway and drives for about fifteen minutes before something goes terribly wrong. A weird noise came from the front of the car and then a loud bang. The car rolled to a stop near a small exit. Duff looked at the engine, but had no hope of knowing what happened. So Duff called a tow-truck which took the car five miles west to a garage in a small hick town. The mechanics diagnosed that he had thrown an engine rod. This usually happens if the engine doesn’t get oiled enough. Duff had no idea of the last oil change since he had only had the car for two weeks.
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"Car Trouble By Jeanne Duprau." 123HelpMe.com. 14 Nov 2019
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So he abandoned the car and settled in a nearby by café and searched for a solution on his laptop. Finally he found an ad that read, “Need driver to deliver car to St. Louis ASAP. There is a reward if successful.” It was Duff’s big break. He would have something to drive, plus he’d make some easy cash. While in the diner, a man tapped him on the shoulder asking for a ride to California. His name was Stu Sturverson. He is a hitchhiker with no harmful intentions. He was buff but tethered. He said he wanted to start a new life. This all sounded suspicious to Duff, but due to his kindness he agreed to it.
Duff emailed the car provider and accepted the task. He also asked if he could bring Stu. The provider was okay with him having a passenger. It took a day for the driver to get the car to the small town so Duff and Stu stayed in a hotel in town. The town was very desolate, dry, and somewhat boring. They woke up early in the morning as the car arrived in the parking lot. The car was not just any average car. It was a chrome and black, 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. Duff started to feel nervous about the drive. He and Stu hit the interstate right away and it was obvious that the car was going to be a gas hog. They stopped to eat at a trucker’s diner because it was the only thing for miles and they were starving. The restaurant was crowed and noisy. Duff and Stu left the diner on full stomachs. They arrived at a toll road and Duff reached into his pocket but his wallet was missing. He thought he had left it at the diner. But because of his delivery time limit, he had no time to head back and get it. Stu willingly paid for the road. Duff had no idea that Stu would have been able to afford that. The arrived in St. Louis the next day and pulled up to the house. They rang the doorbell and expected to find the old woman who owned the car. But instead it was her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Bonnie.
Bonnie lived by herself in the house. It is revealed that her mom is a con-artist and is serving a court sentence in Georgia. Bonnie was not happy about her mom’s history. She had a yappy dog named Moony that never stopped barking at Duff and Stu. Bonnie was a girl that was interested in music. She wrote her own songs with her guitar. She let the boys stay in the house because it was twelve-o-clock at night already. In the morning, Bonnie decided that she would like to go to California too. She would stay with her aunt Rosalie. She told Duff that they could use her mom’s Chevy to get there.
Bonnie’s mother realizes that a briefcase of her “conned” off money was left in the car that Bonnie was taking, so she sends two goons out to steal the cash back. The group drove west-bound in search of a place to stay. On the drive, Duff thought of ways to make cars more economical and fuel-efficient. He recalls seeing a bus advertising soy-bean fuel a couple days earlier. Soon a sign popped up on the scenic back roads of New Mexico, “Sunville…5 Miles.” This sounded like a pleasant place to stay. A couple invited them to stay in their house because there were no hotels in this town. In the morning Duff walked outside and smelled fresh, clean air. He noticed something strange about the town. It was “unrealistically” green all over and every house had solar panels lining the roof. The families even said all the buildings were constructed by renewable natural resources. This gave Duff even more ideas for his economy car idea.
Duff, Stu, and Bonnie left the town feeling good and refreshed after a seven-hour drive the night before. They were heading down the highway when a black car came zooming by and trying to stop them. After a long chase with Duff failing to lose them, they pulled to the side of the road. It was the goons, searching for the money. They checked the Chevy all over and even Duff and them, but the money was nowhere to be found. No one had any idea where it had gone. All shaken-up from the moment, they drove onward to Bonnie’s aunt’s house in Arizona. She was a nice old lady who was an author of some little-known books in the area. Stu noticed she had a small Toyota for sale in the garage, since the Bel Air would have to be left here. To Duff and Bonnie’s amazement, Stu bought the car. They wondered why Stu didn’t buy a car way back in Virginia. Duff rode in the car and looked at his laptop the rest of the way. He searched the web for “economical cars”. He found a site that talked about cars that run on air. This was by far the best solution Duff had discovered for his car ideas.
Terrible news came by email to Duff that the company he was going to work for has gone out of business. Now he was left without a job. They arrived in Los Angeles and saw nothing but skyscrapers and lights. Duff used his reward cash to rent an apartment while he searched for a job. It was Stu who had Duff’s wallet all along, but he said he had used it for good. Duff was furious. Even more so when he found out Stu had discovered and taken the money from the Chevy to buy the car. Stu made a deal with Duff that if he did not urn Stu in, Stu would help Duff find work. Duff found his calling unexpectedly. He ended up working as a car scientist, helping to develop new ways of saving gas in cars. Stu met up with an old friend of his who was a record producer. Stu showed the producer Bonnie’s musical talent and they soon became famous.
I enjoyed reading this book because it had little events throughout the story that kept me interested. To be honest, this is the first novel I have actually read completely. It had plenty of small stories to follow and some good humor along the way. I would suggest this as a good read, because it doesn’t get boring like some other books. I have noticed it is a bit repetitive but that didn’t bother me too much. I don’t think the ending was as good as possible. I would want a sequel before I’m satisfied with this. But I have no control of that. I think this would be a good book to read for people who like mysteries and comedies combined. You know, “mysteromedies” or something.