Title: The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle
Author: Christina Uss
Publisher: Margaret Ferguson Books, 2018. 320 pages (hardback)
Source: Library digital resources
Introverted Bicycle has lived most of her life at the Mostly Silent Monastery in Washington, D.C. When her guardian, Sister Wanda, announces that Bicycle is going to attend a camp where she will learn to make friends, Bicycle says no way and sets off on her bike for San Francisco to meet her idol, a famous cyclist, certain he will be her first true friend. Who knew that a ghost would haunt her handlebars and that she would have to contend with bike-hating dogs, a bike-loving horse, bike-crushing pigs, and a mysterious lady dressed in black. Over the uphills and downhills of her journey, Bicycle discovers that friends are not such a bad thing to have after all, and that a dozen cookies really can solve most problems.
I didn’t know what to make of this book at first. The idea of a 12-year-old riding a bike across the country alone was intriguing, but unlikely. That she’d been raised by Mostly Silent Monks gave me my first clue that “absurd” was an okay way for this story to be. It’s a testament to what a good author can do with an absurd premise to make a real point.
Bicycle is launched on her adventure because she needs to make friends. Her guardian thinks that she needs the services of “The Friendship Factory,” which guarantees a kid will make 3 new friends at their camp. Bicycle wants friends, but she doesn’t want the kids on the bus to camp.
It’s evident from the beginning that this is a case of the kid knowing more than the adult, and seeing more clearly. Bicycle’s idea is a long shot—to attend the Blessing of the Bikes in San Francisco and ask the cyclist, Zbig, to be her friend—but at least she knows you don’t make friends in a factory. And it turns out that she kind of has a gift for friendship, though it takes her a while to recognize it, and Sister Wanda even longer.
I was a bit bothered by the way the author played fast-and-loose with geography in places (maybe all over, for all I know—I only know the geography of the West well enough to catch her). Bicycle's entry into Yosemite from the East is really an entry from the West, and I almost laughed when Bicycle rode right into the campground in the Valley and got a campsite (yeah, you need reservations). And, of course, the laws of conservation of mass and energy don't seem to hold in places. Anyway, in the end, none of that mattered, because it was just a fun story with a strong message about being yourself and letting friendships happen.
A fun read, and a good reminder for readers of all ages that it's better to be yourself than to try to be someone else's idea of who you should be.
Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."