Chasing the Skip
by Janci Patterson
October 2, 2012
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Source: DAC ARC Tours
Ricki’s dad has never been there for her. He’s a bounty hunter who spends his time chasing parole evaders—also known as “skips”—all over the country. But now since Ricki’s mom ran off, Ricki finds herself an unwilling passenger in a front-row seat to her father’s dangerous lifestyle.
Ricki’s feelings get even more confused when her dad starts chasing seventeen-year-old Ian Burnham. She finds herself unavoidably attracted to the dark-eyed felon who seems eager to get acquainted. But Ricki thinks she’s ever in control—the perfect manipulator. Little does she know that Ian isn’t playing their game by her rules. (Goodreads Summary.)
I sat in the passenger seat of my dad's four door truck, trying to focus on my history assignment and not the skip sitting behind me.
My Take On It
Chasing the Skip, was a different book than I expected it to be. After reading the synopsis, my mind zeroed in on a couple of things: bounty hunters and a teenage felon, who may or may not be a good guy, who has skipped out on his bond. So what I was kind of expecting was a teenage Bonnie and Clyde type of story. The good girl falls for the bad boy when her father apprehends him, and in turn goes on the run with him. Maybe they knock over a few banks in the process. Well, that is not exactly how Chasing the Skip played out. Yes, there is a good girl and yes, there is a bad boy, but Chasing the Skip is actually a cautionary tale. It is also a book that centers more around the family drama between an estranged father and daughter than a romantic love story between two teens. Did I end up liking this turn of events or did it totally bomb because it wasn't at all what I was expecting? Let's discuss:
Chasing the Skip is told in first person POV, which is always my preferred perspective in the books I read. Ricki is your typical teenage girl living a rather atypical life. Raised by a single mom, Ricki has never really known her dad. Ricki's upbringing was a far cry from stable. When she was old enough to stay on her own her mom routinely checked out. Most of the time it would only be for the night, or a day. But sometimes she'd disappear long enough that Ricki would have to leave her deserted home and go stay with her grandmother. Then Ricki's mom leaves and doesn't come home. Ricki is unsure if she's going to show up again one day like she always does or if this time she is gone for good. Ricki's grandmother calls her dad and tells him that he needs to get his daughter and take her in, that it's time to step up as a parent. The story begins with Ricki now living 'on the road' with her bounty hunter dad. Her dad, unconventional job aside, seems to want to make amends with his daughter and become a better parent. But Ricki is having a hard time forgiving and forgetting and an even harder time writing her mom off completely. She keeps hoping to hear from her and begins investigating her disappearance on her own.
I liked the character of Ricki, and I really did sympathize with her plight. She's pretty angsty but she sort of has a right to be. Her dad doesn't have a 'real home', instead living in a travel trailer that he can move around as needed while he's on the road hunting down 'skips', those who have skipped out on their bond. Because of this, Ricki is unable to go to school, but her dad is making her keep up with her homework assignments until he can find a solution to the problem of where they can live. Ricki feels very isolated and cut off. She misses her friends and her boyfriend hasn't been in touch with her since she left with her dad. With these things in mind it's easy to see how Ricki might make some poor decisions after her dad picks up a teenage felon named Ian. A friendship of sorts forms between the two and although he is a shady character, he's her age, and not too hard on the eyes, and Ricki is aching to talk to someone her age.
So I don't fault Ricki for her lapses in judgement when it comes to Ian. I do think that a girl with the background that she has should probably have more street smarts and common sense, but because of the situation she is in, and the strained relationship with her dad and mom, Ricki's actions aren't THAT hard to swallow. And yeah, I'm being vague here because I don't wish to spoil.
Ricki as a character was very well developed, as was her father. What I liked about Ricki's dad was that he was a parental figure with his heart in the right place, even if his past actions didn't exactly demonstrate that. To his credit he is genuinely trying to make amends to Ricki for not being around. And now that he is stepping up to the plate and has come on board as a dad, limited as his experience is, he has FULLY come on board. Ricki's dad is a DAD, not a friend, not a buddy, a DAD. That's important because Ricki has always been more of a parent to herself than her mom ever was. And it also helps to create conflict between an independent, headstrong daughter and a stubborn yet well meaning father.
Whereas Ricki and her dad are both fleshed out characters, I found Ian, the 'skip,' to be a little lacking in that department. Ian is an interesting character for sure. He's been let down by every adult he's ever known and as a result he has lost all respect for them and the law. Ian has become a master manipulator and will do whatever he thinks he needs to do to survive. Ian has very little trust in anyone and that does make him a somewhat sympathetic figure. But even with those bits of insight into his personality, I couldn't help but feel like his character lacked depth. Ian had loads of potential but ultimately fell short with me, which was disappointing.
Chasing the Skip is a fast read, the pacing was handled well. I also really liked Janci Patterson's smooth writing style. I wouldn't call it poetic or lyrical, but it was authentic and easy to read. As far as action goes, there are tense moments in Chasing the Skip, but if you are looking for all out action and adventure Dog, The Bounty Hunter style, I think you will be disappointed. In fact the portrayal of the life of a bounty hunter isn't what you'd find on your favorite TV show or on film. And this felt authentic to me. You know when you watch a cop show on TV it's a whole lot of action and on the go crime solving? But you know in reality there is a bunch of boring paperwork involved, mundane stake outs and false leads. That is sort of what Chasing the Skip reminded me of. It's not the slick dramatic look at the life of a bounty hunter, instead it felt more like the real life version of what the job really entails. Lots of driving from place to place to look for somebody. Apprehending suspects without a crazy car chase or dangerous foot race (although there is an instance of both in the book.) Picking up routine skips, like a serial drunk who keeps forgetting to make his court dates.
While I appreciated the non-Hollywood version of the job, I have to say it was also a tad disappointing. It would've been cool for a little more action, and I think that is something that many readers might be expecting. But this all goes back to the fact that Chasing the Skip wasn't written as an action/ adventure kind of book. And it wasn't written as a 'dangerous romance' kind of book. There are elements of both included, but Chasing the Skip is really a book about families. What constitutes a family and what it takes to maintain a family. And Janci Patterson does a very good job writing THAT story.
So in summary, if you like contemporary dramas that are well paced, have only a smidgen of action but much more tension, are a bit lighter on the romance and more focused on family relationships, than I think you will enjoy Chasing the Skip from debut author Janci Patterson.
Check out author Janci Patterson's website HERE.
Read more reviews of Chasing the Skip:
The Page Sage
Elitist Book Reviews
The Book Muncher
The Debut Review