High school life is complicated for senior Jack Duncan. Not only does he have to juggle normal schoolwork, the occasional job driving tractors for others in town, and playing varsity baseball for his high school, he also has to take care of his financially struggling mother. Years ago, Jack and his parents owned one of the biggest, most successful farms in Delano. Selling the bountiful harvest grown on their four thousand acres allowed them to prosper greatly. That’s all gone now, and he and his mother struggle to hold on to the one remaining acre they have left. Their predicament has reached the point where they must sell their combine to be able to pay the back taxes on their property. Without the money from the sale, their land will be taken by the bank and put up for auction. With no other choice, Jack and his mother decide to sell the combine.
The decision made, Jack jumps in the combine and begins driving it into town to sell it. As he makes his way there, though, he is stopped along the road by a man claiming to have been one of his father’s best friends. After introducing himself, Jack recognizes the name as one that his mother talked about often. The man urges him to stop a minute and get in his car so that he can tell him something important. As Jack enters the car, he begins to listen to what his dad’s friend has to say and is astonished by what he hears. Jack is told that his father’s death ten years ago did not happen the way the cops say it did. According to him, Jack’s father had been murdered. Jack listens in awe until the man gives him a police report to read. He studies the report intently for several minutes. Finally, he looks up, ready to ask the man more questions, but is alarmed at what he finds. The man is gone, and Jack's combine along with him! Jack can’t help but wonder if the story about his dad was all a ruse, but something feels off. Why would one of his father’s best friends steal his only chance at keeping his house?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Road to Delano. The book had an excellent plot with lots of different aspects that worked together to keep it engaging throughout. Some of these aspects were those of theft, gambling, crooked cops, protesting workers, and many more. I also loved how the book was able to continuously resolve issues that cropped up, but in order to keep it interesting, it continued to throw out new ones. In fact, there were consistently about two or three different problems at any given time that needed to be resolved. Even so, these situations were crafted in such a way that the flow never seemed cluttered or unfocused. Instead, they added to the intrigue and made the characters’ feelings of helplessness palpable in all the right situations.
One thing that I worried about before diving into this book was that it would focus too much on baseball and farming and that it would turn into a bore. The reality of the matter actually turned out to be the exact opposite; it focused on them just enough so that they worked as elements of the story but didn’t dominate it. This book would be well-suited to anyone who enjoys a good mystery mixed in with lots of action to keep the reader coming back for more.