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The novel Notes from the Midnight Driver, written by Jordan Sonnenblick, tells the story of a 16 year-old boy who crashes his mother’s car while driving drunk one night, and as part of his sentence, is forced to complete 160 hours of community service, volunteering with a grumpy elderly gentleman in a nursing home.  As the novel progresses a bond forms between the two – Alex provides Sol with much needed companionship, and Sol provides Alex with wisdom and guidance.  Through his foolish accident and his subsequent community service, young Alex learns that despite challenges in life, relationships with family and friends are ultimately what matters.  This is evident through the following:  through Alex’s relationship with his friends Laurie and Sol, through Alex’s relationship with his parents, and finally, through  Sol’s longing for a relationship with his daughter.  And so as an unlikely friendship forms between Sol and Alex, they are both much better off for having met.Clearly upset and struggling with his parents’ breakup, Alex feels both hurt and angry with them.  He is frustrated with their constant bickering, and he feels abandoned and unwanted by his father.  For example, when Alex talks to his friend Laurie about the fact that his father does not want to be around him, Alex says, “I bet your dad isn’t feeling to another state to get away from you” (105).   While Alex knows very little about why his parents split, or why his father feels a need to escape, Alex feels that he is the reason – that his father does not want to be in his life.  Not only does he feel unwanted he also feels hurt.  On page 89, he asks his dad,” ‘Well, thanks for telling me. I guess leaving Mom and me wasn’t enough of a change, huh?’ Here, Alex is expressing that not only did his dad hurt him in leaving the first time, but that now he is adding to his hurt by wanting leave the state.  Therefore Alex  feels upset with his parents breaking up and also feels abandoned by his father.Despite his anger, through his community service – specifically through his work with Sol, Alex is transformed by the end of the novel.  As Annette notes, “You’re not just a more sensitive musician – you’re a more sensitive person.  Everybody has noticed” (248-249).  Alex learns how to put the needs of others before himself, he learns that his parents love him, and he learns that elderly people are people who had lives before they were old.  First, when Alex writes to the judge about his plan for a benefit concert, it is evident that he is now putting Sol’s needs before his own.  He writes, “Have you considered my earlier request to extend my time at the home?  I really think that Sol would miss me if I stopped visiting him” (139).  Here Alex demonstrates true compassion and consideration for someone other than himself.   Furthermore, Alex learns that his parents love him, and that this is true regardless of whether or not they remain together.  He tells his parents, “But I know you both love me, and I love both of you.  I’m sorry if I’ve been a problem (239).  Again, Alex is demonstrating sincere concern for others.  Finally, Alex learns who Sol really is as a person.  He learns about Sol’s family, and how much he loves his daughter.  Sol tells him, “You young people never think anybody over the age of 65 ever did anything” (169).  Sol teaches Alex the importance of truly getting to know someone.  As Alex learns these valuable life lessons, Sol is also transformed. Through his relationship with Alex (and Laurie), Sol learns how to live and love again.  When Sol is playing guitar at the concert, Alex’s mom notes, “Oh Alex!  What a wonderful surprise!  I don’t know how you did it, but you’ve brought Mr. Lewis back to life” (162). Through Alex’s efforts, Sol is able to play the guitar again after not touching a guitar for over 20 years.  Furthermore, when Sol gives Alex his prized guitar, it is evident that Sol is capable of great love and generosity.  He tells Alex, “Alex, it’s yours.  You could strap it to your feet and use it for skiing if you want to, but I personally think that would be wasteful” (224).  This gift represents a major shift in Sol, who has kept this guitar locked up and untouched for over 20 years.  Finally, and perhaps most important, Alex’s efforts enable Sol and his daughter, Judge Judy, to reconcile before his death.  When Alex enters Sol’s locker and finds all the memories of his daughter in a box, it is clear that a reconciliation will allow Sol to die peacefully.  In an ironic twist, when he sees his daughter, Sol is able to utter one word through his mask, “Judy” (255).  The importance of Sol getting to tell his daughter that he loves her cannot be overstated.  And it could be argued that this would not be possible if not for Alex’s efforts.  In conclusion, through the accident and his ensuing community service, Alex gains wisdom and guidance. Alex learns that despite the challenges in life, relationships with family and friends are what ultimately matter – he learns how to put the needs of others before his own, and how rewarding this can be.  This is shown through his relationships with his friends,  specifically Laurie and Sol, and through his relationship with his mother and father.  Furthermore, Sol, in turn, receives a lot from Alex, as he longs for a relationship with his daughter and to live again, before he dies.  Through Alex’s sincere caring, he is able to achieve both.  As the judge notes in a letter to Alex,  “Perhaps, given the nature of your offense, you were deliberately assigned to Mr. Lewis so that you could learn some lessons together” (207).  And this is precisely what they do.

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