It's the second week of July, and there's something much worse than a fuel shortage going on. (“Short-age would mean there wasn’t enough. Instead, there wasn’t any.”) The lack of fuel isn't affecting only small-town Rocky Shores, where 14-year-old Dewey Marriss lives. Fuel is short all across the country; it’s a crunch. Since his mother and his truck driver father are away celebrating their anniversary—stuck near the Canadian border without any diesel—it’s up to Dewey and his older sister to be the “embodiment of responsibility” for three younger siblings on their small farm.
At first Dewey relishes managing his father’s side business, the Marriss Bike Barn, until the greater demand for bicycles and repairs becomes more than he can keep up with. Although he hasn’t been meticulous about recording inventory, he’s certain that someone has been pilfering bike parts. He doesn’t want to suspect his next-door neighbor, who’s already in the habit of helping himself to eggs and berries, or Robert, the out-of-work, recent college grad, who likes to help out in the bike shop, but times are now strange and anyone could be to blame.
As the highways clear, leaving quiet walkers and bikers traveling down the once busy lanes, a new value system emerges in which bikes are stolen, prices skyrocket, shoppers hoard what little remains on the shelves, businesses aren’t hiring and holders of precious gas ration cards are assaulted and robbed. Amid the tough times, Dewey also observes how the crunch has brought out the best in neighbors and small business owners, as they rally together to help the community.
The clever teen applies his dad’s “list of the Eight Rules That Apply to Fixing Almost Anything” to running the bike shop, and also to encouraging the camaraderie of his family, friends and neighbors. The Mariss family's teamwork and quirky lifestyle make readers want to join along as they play, laugh and dine on clam chowder after a busy yet rewarding day on the farm.
Leslie Connor's delightful mystery and commentary on possible global crises will inspire children to hop on their bikes and find ways to save the planet.
Angela Leeper wishes she could ride her bike to her job at the University of Richmond.