Thomas Gaughan (review date 15 December 1995)
SOURCE: A review of Nathan's Run, in Booklist, Vol. 92, No. 8, December 15, 1995, pp. 667-68.
[In the following review, Gaughan offers a mixed assessment of Nathan's Run, finding the characters shallow.]
Nathan Bailey's life is a Dickensian tragedy updated for the 1990s. At age 11, his father dies in a car accident, leaving him orphaned and at the mercy of abusive, alcoholic, ne'er-do-well Uncle Mark. To escape further beatings, Nathan steals Mark's car and is sentenced to a juvenile-detention center, where he is promptly gang-raped. When a drunken guard attempts to kill him, Nathan manages to kill the guard and escape. Stealing cars and hiding in the suburban homes of vacationing families, Nathan learns that he's the talk of talk radio, and as the boy hunt escalates, he begins an on-the-air dialogue with The Bitch, a nationally syndicated talk-show star. The body count rises as a sadistic hitman also stalks Nathan, and only The Bitch and a local cop believe that Nathan may be a victim instead of a stone killer. This novel isn't literature, and the author isn't a new Dickens. Nathan seems too sweet and polite to be a believable 12-year-old, especially one so brutalized. Other characters, notably the callous juvey warden and the DA who thinks the death penalty for Nathan is his ticket to the U.S. Senate, are the flimsiest of cardboard constructions. That said, the book has an engaging, plucky hero and a breakneck pace, and it is likely to become both a smash best-seller and a big-budget film. Libraries should prepare for a Grisham-like run on Nathan's Run.