Henry Gregor Felsen Louise S. Bechtel - Essay

Louise S. Bechtel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Adults often find it hard to understand or to deal with, the teen-age boys who go off the deep end about rebuilt, "hopped-up" cars, which sometimes bring them to their death. As in his widely read "Hot Rod," Mr. Felsen tries to present both points of view in an exciting story ["Street Rod"]. It includes a lot of information, especially for adults new to the subject….

Concentrating on the adolescent emotions and ambition (to be a car designer) of a sixteen-year-old, the story shows vividly the compelling power of gang action, a boy's frustration if not part of a gang and his longing to be its leader. The boys of the street-rod gang in the sleepy town of Dellville defy the law in near-by towns and cities. Gradually, the understanding of Ricky's father plus the influence of his girlfriend put him on the road to reasonable action. But his pride cannot cope with the rivalry of the one really bad boy in the gang. When all is going well, and he has won the prize for the best-designed streed rod at the county show, the rival he now could scorn brings him to a tragic end.

This sort of realism makes an excellent lesson for boys of Ricky's age and temperment, if they will read it. One hopes rather that adults will read it. There are plenty of Dellvilles where the recreation centers do not interest teen-agers, where there are not libraries that lure them (where they might find this book) and where the schools do not engage their whole minds and talents.

Louise S. Bechtel, "Books for Boys and Girls: 'Street Rod'," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), Vol. 30, No. 6, September 20, 1953, p. 10.