Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I stayed up kind of late to finish this book, because I had to finish it fast. It was heavy. Obviously, I mean it deals with an almost school shooting incident, as well as a lot of other issues that, as a kid in today's world you would encounter. I was impressed with the narrative style--brilliant writing, perfectly capturing the ADHD nature of Crash and his world. I appreciated how the writing totally opened a window on kids dealing with ADD/ADHD--and not that I have it myself, but I've worked with kids that do--and I feel he portrayed it pretty accurately, and because of that it's revelatory and eye-opening. Everything from the paranoia, anxiety, difficulty learning or focusing to the need to move physically is spot on. Also, switching back and forth between present and past was also a narrative move that worked well.
I skipped some parts, because the content was a little much for me. I liked the parts where he talks about things other than than just smoking and drinking and getting with girls--those other parts (mostly with Burn) were more formative and definitive for his character and the story, I think. Really, if some of those partying scenes were cut out, I think the book would be shorter and better. It was definitely on the long side--but I feel like some of that length was needed in order to build up the characters and the story so you would understand, and really feel, the moment in the school between Burn and Crash that everything leads up to. I just think a few less (filler) scenes of him smoking/drinking/getting with girls would have been nice and wouldn't have taken away from the story.
And wow, this book is intense. Not just because of the culminating moment, but really a lot of other moments that lead up to it, and that make your heart hurt for some of these characters. Certain scenes are just wonderfully plotted and achingly intense. The male point of view is also perfectly done--I haven't seen a book from the boy's POV done so well in a long time. So I go back and forth--it's such a long book with some content that I would have a hard time recommending to some audiences, but on the other hand, it's a perfect picture of today's teenage boy. The issues it addresses (mental health, 9/11, school shootings, education, etc) are so incredibly present. It's got a lot of appeal because of the narrator, and I really enjoyed getting into those issues with Crash. Plus, it's got some pretty great nineties nostalgia going on. So really, I don't think this is a book to be missed--for the YA audience or for adults.