Ollie Buckmeyer is funny, popular, and lives an idyllic life with his family on one of the last cattle ranches in Southern California. But when he suffers a devastating brain injury, his wonderful world is shattered. Even though he still looks like the same old Ollie, his family mourns as if he had died, his friends don’t know him, and the girl he loves is gone. Everything that matters is taken from him…but something is also given: Ollie has an amazing new talent that might be powerful enough to rebuild his life.
Ollie Come Free is a sweeping family saga that explores love, betrayal, and the resilience of the human spirit. Plots and subplots abound—including a buried treasure that has confounded fortune hunters for 120 years—and are brought to life by a full cast of complex and fascinating characters. As Foreword Clarion says in their five star review, “Ollie Come Free is a surprising and rewarding page-turner.”
After the strike, Ollie suffers a traumatic brain injury, becomes withdrawn, and begins compulsively–and prodigiously–sketching his surroundings in unerring detail. Ollie is eventually diagnosed with acquired savant syndrome, which has many behavioral similarities with autism. Patrick’s story focuses on how this new reality affects the family unit. Stalwart Bob and nurturing Cathy become even more so, but Cody, 18 months Ollie’s senior, turns into something like the family’s villain “when envy slithers in and wraps itself around an unprotected heart.” Over a dozen years, the characters experience some level of growth and healing, except Cody, who becomes more embittered, calculating, and manipulative.
Patrick (Tea Cups & Tiger Claws, Death of a Movie Star) explores regional history, class disparities, and the perils of celebrity in Ollie Come Free, incorporating a family legend about buried gold, Cody’s covetous thievery, and Ollie’s transformation from social outcast to celebrity artist (drawing city skylines from memory like real-life savant Stephen Wiltshire). Patrick doesn’t try to represent Ollie’s interior life, choosing to detail the externals instead: Ollie’s coping mechanisms and the ways loved ones find to reconnect. Young readers interested in a realistic depiction of artistic savant experiences will find resonance in this atypical coming-of-age centered on a protagonist whose future is tied to a past that always calls him home.
Takeaway: A teen savant draws on resilient allies to open up his path to a full and rewarding life.
Great for fans of: Gordon Korman’s Restart, Cass Tell’s The Savant, and C.G. Drews’s The Boy Who Steals Houses.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: C+
"Patrick has developed a truly original cast of characters, clearly elucidating their complex relationships, and creating an intriguing juxtaposition between Cody, a once-promising baseball player, and Ollie, who against all odds, flourishes...Patrick so skillfully sustains the dramatic tension that...they'll be sitting at the edge of their seats, turning pages."
"Classified as a young adult book but perfect for all, Ollie Come Free is a surprising, rewarding page-turner. At its core, it is a novel about family, love, and the resilience of the human spirit. Its pacing and storytelling is well honed, and its deep dive into savant research, coupled with a search for buried treasure, are natural parts of its sweeping story."