80 pages 2 hours read

Nic Stone

Clean Getaway

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2020

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Summary and Study Guide


Clean Getaway is a middle grade novel written by Nic Stone published in 2020. The story draws on history to bring the stories and experiences of African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s to life while also illustrating how its protagonist, William “Scoob” Lamar, deals with his family’s history and its connections to the larger American story. Stone’s first novel, Dear Martin (2017), focuses on a teenager writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The novel won the William C. Morris award and was on the New York Times bestseller list. Stone has also written Odd One Out (2018) and Jackpot (2019).

This study guide refers to the 2020 version of Clean Getaway published by Crown Books for Young Readers. The novel sections off portions with different “Routes” which are represented by “Chapters” in this guide.

Content Warnings: This novel discusses instances of racism and violence and includes the death of a loved one.

Plot Summary

Clean Getaway opens with William “Scoob” Lamar and his grandmother, G’ma, on the road in an RV that G’ma just purchased after selling her home. G’ma invited Scoob to road trip with her, and he was anxious to get away, despite having been grounded by his father, James Robert Lamar, Jr. Scoob has been getting into trouble at school and feels like James is particularly hard on him and is unwilling to listen to his side of the story. G’ma, on the other hand, is more sympathetic.

As G’ma and Scoob travel, they notice people staring rudely at them, and because they are in the South, it is likely because G’ma is white and Scoob is Black.

When they make their first stop in Cheaha State Park in Alabama, G’ma and Scoob set out to watch the sunset from Bunker Tower, the highest point in the state. There, G’ma shows Scoob a copy of the Green Book from 1963. It is a guide to safe locations for Black travelers through the United States, created during a time when it was often dangerous—if not altogether deadly—for African Americans. She and Scoob’s G’pop Jimmy, who was Black, used the Green Book when they made a similar road trip in the 1960s.

Scoob doesn’t know much about his grandfather since he passed away in prison before James was born. However, he learns more and more from his grandmother throughout their journey. G’ma calls the trip her “chance at redemption,” but she doesn’t explain what that means (37). Her goal with Jimmy was to make it to Mexico. It isn’t until later that Scoob learns that they turned around and returned to Atlanta when they discovered that G’ma was pregnant with James.

Along the way, Scoob learns about major figures in the Civil Rights Movement, like Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ruby Bridges. He also listens to G’ma’s stories about the racism Jimmy and James both experienced and what it was like for her and G’pop as an interracial couple. However, she is also notably suspicious when it comes to Scoob’s questions about checking in with his dad. He left his phone back in Atlanta.

With increasing frequency, G’ma begins to refer to Scoob as “Jimmy,” making him uncomfortable. At night, he hears her talk in her sleep, seemingly to Jimmy. He grows more and more worried. When they stop at a jewelry store, he also learns that pickpocketing used to be her hobby. As they exit, Scoob points out that she is still wearing a ruby ring she tried on, and she is forced to return it to the store, pretending that she absentmindedly forgot she was wearing it. Somehow, however, she managed to steal a pair of earrings from the store.

Scoob begins to miss his father and his friends at home. However, G’ma pleads with him to aide her no matter what, even “[i]f something happens” (119).

In Jackson, Mississippi, G’ma reveals that she had wanted to see Medgar Evers’s home, but when she’d gotten off the highway, she was pulled over. Terrified that the police would see her with Jimmy since he was Black and she was white, and it was likely that they would hurt him, she managed to talk her way out of any trouble. Shortly thereafter, she and G’pop turned around.

When Scoob tries to secretly call his father with G’ma’s phone when they stop in Louisiana, he can’t find it. He does, however, find several stacks of money. The next day, G’ma explains that she threw away her phone. They stop for gas, and G’ma explains that she and Jimmy met at a gas station, and while others would not have approved of their relationship, she felt drawn to him. Scoob also asks about G’pop going to jail, and G’ma reveals that he stole some, but not everything that the police blamed him for. By now, she is desperate to get to Mexico.

Along the way, they stop at a Six Flags in Texas, and it is “the best day ever,” according to Scoob (176). For the moment, he feels like he has gotten his grandma back.

However, the tension quickly resumes, especially when Scoob sees an Amber Alert with his picture, an alert sent out to help find kidnapped children. G’ma doesn’t know that he’s seen it and thanks him for coming with her. She appears frail, and he knows that “there’s something very wrong with his G’ma” (190). That night, he hears her sleep walking and talking. When she falls, he catches her.

G’ma reveals that she stole the jewelry that Jimmy was arrested for. When the police came in the middle of the night, she stayed quite when Jimmy protested that he hadn’t stolen the jewelry. She knew they’d arrest him no matter what just because he was Black. However, G’ma never revealed the truth, nor did she visit Jimmy in prison. She never even told him that she stole the jewelry.

Scoob and G’ma end up having to go to the hospital, and Scoob’s father is called when he and G’ma are finally recognized. When James arrives, he and Scoob hug, and he recounts the past several days to Scoob. He explains that G’ma has late-stage cancer, and he apologizes for being so hard on Scoob. The last several days without Scoob, he tells him, were the worst of his life.

They get 17 more days with G’ma before she passes away at home. After she dies, Scoob uncovers a secret compartment in her treasure box, and he immediately tells his father that they must go on a road trip. They finish what G’ma started with G’pop all those years ago, traveling all the way from Atlanta to Mexico. There, Scoob buries her box with all its contents, including the Green Book.

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