Last Bus Out - by Beck McDowell
Last Bus Out

"the authenticity of the conversations allowed me to feel like I was part of the action"

Where does America look for its heroes? Some might argue to the military or to businessmen or to social workers. Few, however, would look to the projects for a hero, but that is exactly where the hero of Beck McDowell's true book, Last Bus Out, is from. Last Bus Out is the true story of Courtney Miles, a teenager who grew up in government housing in Algiers, which is a small town outside of New Orleans. The book not only describes Courtney's life, it also recaps his stealing a school bus in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in order to rescue the friends and family that he loves.

The second largest hurricane ever in the United States, Hurricane Katrina claimed the lives of thousands in Louisiana and the homes and livelihood of thousands more. Beck McDowell is from Louisiana herself, so her book does a worthy job of portraying the teenager behind this incredible rescue. Courtney Miles' act of heroism in the face of this traumatic natural disaster is inspirational, and Last Bus Out magnificently illuminates his story.

I thoroughly enjoyed Last Bus Out, and its story-like recap of actual events made the book difficult to set down. I feel that McDowell does an excellent job of sharing Courtney's perspective by using an omniscient narrator that not only communicates the conversations in the book, but also gives insight to Courtney's thoughts, worries, hopes, and ideas. As McDowell walks through Courtney's life with relevant flashbacks as the story progresses, I was able to begin to piece together Courtney's background and slowly gain understanding of the complexity of his circumstances. McDowell successfully relates the emotions circulating through Courtney's life, and I began to feel Courtney's anxiety, worry, hope, frustration, and determination. She helped me to sympathize with Courtney and fully appreciate his cause, constantly giving reminders of Courtney's humble and gracious nature.

Another aspect of the book that I found captivating was the way that McDowell reveals Courtney's close relationship and reliance on God. So many sources today are afraid and unwilling to allow God to be mentioned in their works, but McDowell embraces Courtney's faith. She depicts Courtney's humble friendship with God through his sincere prayers, and there are several times when Courtney gives all the glory of his life to God. Being a Christian, this aspect of the book helped to encourage me in my own walk with the Lord, and it made me enjoy reading the book that much more.

While centering the book on Courtney's rescue of his town, McDowell does not neglect the numerous other trials that have faced Courtney through his life. By including so many examples of the hardship, abuse, and unfairness that plagued Courtney even from childhood, McDowell helped me to truly appreciate how extraordinary both he and his heroism is. The recounting of many of Courtney's conversations with his friends and family also gives the book a unique perspective. I found it interesting to be able to compare Courtney's mindset with those of the people surrounding him. In some cases, there were definite similarities, and other times I asked myself how Courtney managed to rise above his peers' lifestyles.

McDowell's use of genuine dialogue gives further credence to the book. As I read through various conversations that Courtney had with his family, friends, and coaches, I knew that they were written probably as closely to real-life as they could have been. I know the way that teenagers talk with their friends and, apparently, McDowell does as well. The authenticity of the conversations penned in the book allowed me to feel even more like I was a part of the action, that I could easily have been one of the people talking with Courtney. As the story nears the current adventure of Courtney's life, McDowell brings the book to a satisfying close and provides an epilogue regarding the lives of several of the main characters. Ultimately, I feel that Last Bus Out is an inspirational and moving read and a book whose story will influence people of all ages for generations to come.

   - Megan M.

"the incredible story of a boy who saved hundreds of people"

Last Bus Out is a great book by Beck McDowell telling the incredible story of a boy who saved hundreds of people. Those people's lives would be changed forever and none of them would ever forget what Courtney did. Courtney is introduced as a young man playing basketball at his favorite spot to practice. Courtney has his own worries and his own emotions just like any normal teenager from the hood. He doesn't care about the weather or his grades and is just living for the things he loves; his family, friends, Jamie, and most importantly, basketball. He has had to look after himself for most of his life and likes to keep quiet and not draw attention. This is the key factor why Courtney is so religious. At points when Courtney seems to have nowhere to go, he always turns toward God, with prayer and a deep personal belief that He is there for him. This strong belief in God has caused him to uphold moral standards and he shows that he always keeps his promises and always tries to help other people, even if it means putting himself in danger. Even though he tries to stay out of the spotlight, he becomes more outgoing and more mature as he meets new people and reunites with lost ones who help him make wise decisions and get him pointed in the right direction for his goals.

McDowell gives the story a very realistic effect by giving the reports from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. These reports help you understand the full intensity of Katrina and the emotions people felt before the storm. Those emotions are very realistic; many people didn't believe that Katrina could be as bad as storms they had seen before so they just waited it out.

Although the story is very entertaining it does have its downsides. Sometimes the story will quickly switch from one thing to another and will go off on a tangent before coming back to the original story. But this happens rarely and can still be followed. Also, the story seems to lack a main climax due to the numerous conflicts Courtney faces. The good side to this is that you are always wondering what is going to come up next, so you are hooked to the book throughout the entire story.

   - Dylan B.