Click on the image to read the back cover.

Novel adopted by:
Michelle Morrison

 

 

Title: Odyssey
Author: Barbara E. Walton

Printed: March 1996
ISBN #: 1-57297-092-8
Leap Date: January 21, 1983
 

    

UK version front and back covers!


 

It’s 1983 and Sam has leapt into a very smart but troubled junior high student.   The young man is part of Odyssey of the Mind, a program for gifted students that is about to be axed.  The students in the program will be devastated if the program doesn’t continue, so Sam is there to prevent it from being shut down.  He also finds out he needs to make things right for his host and his mom.  But can Sam get anyone to listen to who they believe to be a 12-year-old kid? 

Person Leapt Into
Sean O’Connor.

Place
Penworth, New York.

Project Trivia
The staff at the Project has a hard time getting Sean to stay in the waiting room.  He doesn’t like being cooped up, is curious about the Project and wants to see where he is.  Ultimately though, Al and Dr. Beeks help him deal with some of his issues and understand what is happening to him. 

Sam Trivia
We get some information on the challenges Sam had when he was in junior high and high school. 

We see Sam’s skill as a doctor when he helps Sean’s mom.

Sam associates New York with New York City; he’s discovering New York State is a whole different world.

Al Trivia
We get some background on Al and how he got the education that eventually led to him working with Sam.   The author explores the issues that influenced his getting married five times.  Despite some initial hesitation, Al actually does well connecting with Sean, and he and Sean do have quite a bit in common.

Miscellaneous Trivia
One of the kids in the Odyssey of the Mind program turns out to be someone with a connection to the Project. 

Sam leapt into kids in The Camakazi Kid, Runaway, 8-1/2 Months and Raped.

King Thunder from Glitter Rock is mentioned.

References are made to The Play is The Thing, Catch a Falling Star, Genesis, Star Crossed, Honeymoon Express and The Americanization of Machiko—i.e., Sam vaguely remembers being in a play, and he appears to remember leaping into the husbands of several women, and seeing Donna when she was in college.

Regular Characters
Sam, Al and Ziggy.

Guest Characters
The support staff at the Project-Tina, Donna, Gooshie, Dr. Beeks and Sammie Jo.   In the leap: The kids in the program (and their families) Chrissi Martinez, Johnny Metz, Peter (Pigeon) Janowski, and Sarah Easton.   The president of the school board, Regina (Gina) Fairgate has an important role in the book.

Guest character notes (interesting info about those who appeared in the novel)
All the kids have issues, mainly because their families are dysfunctional.  Chrissi’s parents are divorced and her father marries a young woman who used to babysit Chrissi.  Pigeon lost his parents in an accident and is being raised by his elderly grandmother.  Johnny has a reasonably stable family, but is coping with the possibility of ending up at a private school where he is cut off from his friends.  Sarah’s parents seem to be focused on their own interests.  However, their families do help out and take a stand against shutting down the program.  I especially like the way Kathleen O’Connor gets her act together for the benefit of her son.  Gina Fairgate, who is instrumental in cutting the Odyssey program, is a real piece of work.   She does end up making things right in the end.    

Characters who appeared in QL TV episodes
Chrissi turns out to be someone familiar to Al and Sam.  The Project support staff is mentioned in a number of QL episodes and we get glimpses of them and the Project in Genesis, Honeymoon Express, Star Crossed, Killin’ Time, The Leap Back, the Trilogy and Mirror Image.

Personal Review
This is an entertaining story that has Sam and Al dealing with some smart but troubled kids.   Barbara gives us some background on Tina, who was only a supporting character on the show.  It’s interesting to have someone we didn’t see a lot of in the show have a key role in the book.  The story makes a good statement about parents and schools working together to help kids succeed and having programs like Odyssey of the Mind to encourage their creativity.  The author’s take on the nonsense that happened (and still happens) with school programs and budgets is pretty accurate.  There is a good message about taking responsibility for your own behavior and making good choices, which I don’t think kids hear enough of these days.  Of course, there are plenty of adults who don’t understand that concept also.  However, I think a lot of problems could be avoided if kids were taught they are responsible for their choices at an early age.  I like the way the author references QL episodes by having Sam remember bits and pieces from different leaps too. She doesn’t name specific characters from the T.V. episodes.  It’s very subtle, but there is enough information that alert QL fans will know what episodes Sam is thinking about.  I also like the fact the story is set in a small town in New York State.  Many people associate New York with the city (as Sam appears to) but that isn’t all there is to New York.  New York State is beautiful, especially near Niagara Falls. 

Best Line
(Al talking to Sean in the waiting room)

I didn’t get divorced four-no, five, I’ll admit five-times because my mom dumped me at an impressionable age.  I don’t cheat on my wives or my girlfriend because I feel abandoned.  And I don’t drink too much because my father died when I was ten.  I do all of those things because I made bad choices.

Best Scene
That has to be when Al and Sam realize Chrissi, who is 11 in this Leap, is someone they know.  The way the author works Tina into the story is very clever.

I love it too when Gina is called on her crap—and at a board meeting no less.  What better payback than to be confronted during a public meeting with the evidence?   

Say What?
Although the line above from Al is a good one, I don’t recall anything in the show about Al cheating on his wives.  He did cheat on Tina (and Tina cheated on him too) but that was partly for laughs and to have the contrast between Al and Sam. The point is we are responsible for our choices, so I won’t be too nitpicky about it.

Quotable Quotes
(Sam and Al talking when Al is filling Sam in about what he is supposed to be doing).

Sam:  Since when are you such an expert on adolescent girls?

Al:  Well, I admit I’m not dating one at the moment….

Sam:  Will you cut that out?

Al:  After the cracks you’ve made about some of the women I hang out with?  Not a chance, buddy.

(Sam/Sean talking to Sean’s mother Kathleen as she recovers from a drinking binge).

Sam:  If you go into acute withdrawal, I want to be here to call an ambulance.

Kathleen:  Acute withdrawal?  What, have you been watching Emergency! reruns?

Sam:  Uh, yeah.

Author’s Notes
Barbara thanks other people who were part of a real school program called Odyssey of the Mind, and the book is in part a tribute to them. 

Info about author 
Barbara lives in New Mexico and works as a librarian as well as a writer.  I found a story she wrote at http://www.pulpcorner.com/ShadowWatch.   I also found out the Odyssey of the Mind program in the book is based on a program that actually exists and she was a participant.  Their website is http://www.odysseyofthemind.org.  She is mentioned in their fact sheet.  

Back to top