Skateboarder Josh Lowman witnesses one of the best skateboarders in town (the local bully) commit a crime. For days he agonizes over whether to tell anyone. Meanwhile, his friendships with a fellow skater (who is debating whether to drop out of school), a beautiful girl in his class (who loves to read, and seems to like Josh), and a cool math tutor (a college student who skates) slowly steer him toward a new kind of courage.
Josh has a mesmerizing narrator's voice; he rattles off a vacuous Valley-speak while slowly coming into his own, intellectually and morally. There is a hint of Holden Caufield about him. Vivid descriptions of skateboarding throughout the book will keep any skateboarder glued to the page. And a plot that rolls ahead constantly will maintain the reader's attention, while intermittently sneaking in a few lessons from English and math class, which serve to advance the story. (References to math in skateboard ramp design; plus small epiphanies from Lord of the Flies, Antigone, and Of Mice and Men.) Josh starts out as a school-hating dude and slowly comes around to seeing that he can skate and be smart . . . and a decent person.
Vertical will be loved by kids and by parents and teachers.