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Literature / Why We Took the Car

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Why We Took the Car is a 2010 youth book written by German author Wolfgang Herrndorf, and translated by Tim Mohr. The story centers around a boy named Maik Klingenberg who goes onto a journey with Andrej Tschichatschow a.k.a. Tschick - in a stolen car, without a driver's license or the age to have one.

Maik is an outsider with an alcoholic mother and an unfaithful father. Andrej Tschichatschow is an immigrant from Russia who shows up drunk at school, has no friends and is only called Tschick. Only at the end of Summer break, out of the blue, Tschick talks to Maik and shows up at his home randomly, the second time with a stolen car. After two rather short drives and a visit at a birthday party they weren't invited to, Tschick proposes to go on vacations - it's Summer break after all, and Maik's parents aren't at home anyway. Their goal is Wallachia, where Tschick apparently has relatives, but without a map, mobiles or anything that helps them find their way, they end up driving through the most different places in Germany, meeting very diverse and rather weird people while trying to escape the police and forming a heartwarming friendship.


Tropes present in Why We Took the Car include:

  • Abusive Parents: Maik's father. He calls him stupid and even hits him when he refuses to blame Tschick in the court.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Maik's mother. However, differently from the common use of this trope, she is displayed as a loving mother nonetheless, and quite aware of her problem.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Nobody in his class likes or cares about Maik, and for a period of time, everyone calls him "Psycho".
  • Big Man on Campus: André, who is also a Chick Magnet.
  • Brainless Beauty: Tschick accuses Tatjana of being one.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: There's quite an amount of not so child-friendly swearing.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Tschick does this throughout almost the entire "Are you gay?" conversation.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Most of the time Tschick drives normally, but when they leave Tatjana's party, he does a 180-turn.
    Tschick: Doesn't always work.
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  • Friendless Background: The main characters, Maik and Tschick.
  • Funny Background Event: While the policemen talk to Maik at the police station, one policeman is trying to get the coffee machine to work with any possible way... except for plugging in the power cord.
  • Global Ignorance: Maik at first refuses to believe that Wallachia even exists.
  • In-Series Nickname: Tschick, which was also the original German title.
  • It May Help You on Your Quest: A man gives Maik and Tschick a bottle filled with a strange liquid, saying it will save their lives one day. They throw it out of the car once they're out of sight.
  • Jerkass: André.
  • Lady Drunk: Maik's mom.
  • Lady Swears-a-Lot: Isa swears in almost every sentence until she becomes more comfortable around Maik and Tschick.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Happens twice: First, when Tschick believes Maik is gay at the beginning of the book, and later on, Isa mistakes them for gay because after eating brambleberries, Maik and Tschick look as if they've put on lipstick.
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  • Moment Killer: Maik and Isa probably would've kissed if Tschick hadn't walked in on them.
  • Only Friend: Maik and Tschick eventually become this for each other.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: With Maik as the sensitive guy and Tschick as the manly man, played down though.
  • Straight Gay: Tschick.
  • ¡Three Amigos!: They become this while travelling with Isa.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When Maik breaks down and tells Tschick that he's actually boring, Tschick refuses to accept it and tells him that he's a great person, which Maik probably needed.