Link to Conrad's Adios Nirvana FaceBook page Buy Conrad's books at

Dirt Bikes received the 2014 "Reading the West" award for young-adult fiction. It's a huge honor, and I'm extremely grateful to the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association for choosing my book.

The "Reading the West" awards honor books set in the Rocky Mountains or Great Plains. Peter Heller won in the adult fiction category for The Painter, and Bryce Andrews won for his non-fiction work Badluck Way. Interestingly, all three of this year's winners have strong Seattle ties. Bryce and I were born and raised in Seattle, and Peter's book is currently the "Seattle Reads" choice. Learn more about the winning titles >>>

West Seattle Herald article announcing the award >>>


I began making notes for the book in 2009 after hearing P.W. Singer interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. During the interview, Singer--a specialist on 21st Century warfare--told the story of a teenage boy with crazy-mad video-game skills—skills that could translate to flying real drones in real war zones.

Singer’s words helped me to crystallize my thinking around several themes. One was the idea that violence against the individual is, in fact, violence against society as a whole. As Arlo Santiago (the 17-year-old narrator in DIRT BIKES) reflects, “A perfect hit goes beyond a single target. It goes wide. And it goes deep.”

Another theme—shared in my previous novel, ADIOS, NIRVANA—focused on the importance of friendship and family in dealing with grief.

A third centered on the power of the individual to stand up to authority when that individual is empowered by the courage of his or her convictions.  

A fourth theme was the inclination of technology to outpace human wisdom.

And finally, the idea that people possess—inherently, if they open themselves to it—a universal awareness and knowledge that connects them with their fullest potential and place in the universe. Arlo calls this state of awareness “The Drone Zone.”  It’s also referred to in the novel as T-FOG (Touch the face of God).


Dirt Bikes, Drones has made the 2015 Tayshas High School Reading List. This is a list of recreational reads developed by the Young Adult Round Table of the Texas Library Association to help connect Texas teens with compelling books. Full 2015 Tayshas List >>>

Quick links:

Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly REVIEWS

Dirt Bikes, Drones Book Release Party, April 25, 2014

The bottom half of this image depicts a young-adult novel in various sloppy-draft stages. The top half shows the same book all polished up and decked out in hard cover. This transition was greatly aided by a luminous agent, Erin Murphy, and a dazzling editor, Kate O'Sullivan, plus a wide circle of supportive, demanding friends. The book was officially born on April 8, 2014. I celebrated with a beer.

DIRT BIKES, DRONES, AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY is a 2014 Junior Library Guild selection.

DIRT BIKES, DRONES, AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY landed on the Air & Space/Smithsonian’s 2014 list of Best Aviation and Space-Themed Books for Young Readers. The list is an annual roundup of children’s and YA titles that focus on flying. 

© 2014 Conrad Wesselhoeft