In this about-face to Hatchet, Gary Paulsen has penned a steamy, seamy autobiographical fiction about a boy learning to be a man as he works his way through his sixteenth summer. The tortured protagonist runs away from his drunken mother, does a short stint as a sugar beet migrant worker, and ends up working in a traveling carnival where he partners up with the chicken-head-biting-geek-guy. It’s while putting in time at the carnival that he meets older woman Ruby, a hard but pretty stripper who seduces him in her trailer. Full of first times of every kind, what makes The Beet Fields more than just a sensationalized look at the underbelly of a runaway teen’s life is Paulsen’s luminous writing–and the fact that you get the distinct feeling that this has all happened to the author himself. But be warned folks–this is no Hatchet. Teens with weak stomachs or squeamish natures should stay with Brian in the Canadian wilderness.