This YA book wasn’t an easy book to start reading.
When I started it, I read the prolog, which is all about the main character and only narrator, Crash. Crash is his nickname, from his last name and the fact that he’s rather severely ADD and identifies closely with the video game character named Crash whose defining strengths are speed and quick reactions.
In the prolog, we meet Crash. He’s a senior in high school. Very popular and charming but an academic flop. All existing ADD drug treatments have been tried and don’t work well for him, so he’s trying to deal with it without drugs. He also has limited family support: his mom and his psychiatrist try, but his father is vindictive and hostile, a perfectionist who blames Crash for simply not trying hard enough. (Like some people who really don’t believe that conditions like ADD really exist.)
What he mostly does in the prologue is drink, smoke pot or otherwise consume as much of any drug he and his buddies can get their hands on, and try their best to get girls drunk/drugged and fuck them. (Yeah, that word exactly conveys the guys’ attitude toward girls.) Sounds like a perfect candidate for certain fraternities and colleges that have been in the news recently. Are we glorifying rape here????
I read the prolog, closed the book and put it down. I almost didn’t continue it.
A few days later, I picked it up again and said, “I’ll try chapter 1. If I still don’t like that, I give up.”
By the end of the chapter, I was going along with the story, involved in it, and finished reading it that night about 12 hours later.
The book had turned into something interesting, because it’s covering two things.
The context of the story is that Crash became a national hero during his senior year when he ended an attack on his high school by another senior student, the one called “Burn,” that he’s known since middle school or thereabouts.
Crash and Burn are both gifted kids. Burn, though, is a diagnosed sociopath. During the story, he’s in and out of treatment, and he’s gone through some hell of his own (his father was killed in the 9/11/01 WTC attacks and his mother kills herself a few years later).
The first thing it covers is the story of Crash and Burn’s complex relationship as things build up to the day Burn rigs the school with explosives and takes everyone hostage. Crash and Burn have a tangled relationship of friendship and hatred, that gets move complex when Burn’s suicidal older sister becomes Crash’s first real love.
The second thing it covers is the story of Crash writing the story of their relationship, the events leading up to attack on the school, how Crash finally ended it, and the “McGuffin” (so to speak): just what were the words Crash said to Burn that finally ended the attack. I won’t reveal them here, they connect into Crash and Burn’s relationship. They’re good words, well-chosen and very much fit the characters and their relationship, but they’re somewhat of a letdown.
There’s one bit of unreality that stood out to me. The story covers 4 years of drunken, drugged, rampant sex during the middle Oughts, by Crash and Burn and all their friends (boys and girls). Yet there is never once a pregnancy or a case of STD. A couple of times, Crash specifically uses a condom. Other times it’s never mentioned. Sorry, there’s too much evidence demonstrating how little condom use there actually is in high schools, despite their sex education classes, when teens are drunk and drugged out of their minds.
Outside of that, there’s something in the book for young adults, people who like psychological stories, people who like action – and writers who’ve had their own struggles with telling a story.
I think it also has just about the perfect cover design for the story: an open matchbook, with 2 matches still in it; one burnt, one unburnt.
While the ending is well-done and appropriate for the story, I was a bit disappointed with it. Crash goes through some serious emotional trials, the only woman he really loves in the story dies by her own hand, he and his father still aren’t getting along. But he seemingly hasn’t changed at all.
That last sentence is slightly undercut, though. There’s a suggestion at the end that his attitude towards drugs and women has changed, as he leaves to spend a weekend with a woman where they relate not through drink/drugs and rape-like sex, but through sharing feelings, dreams, their hearts. Gone is the rape-like sex; replaced with sex that sets out to please her, to please each other.
He’s still not going to become a collegiate success, but I think he’s not going to continue being the troubled high school kid drowning himself in drink, drugs and sex anymore, either.
Try the book, you might like it.