Sunday, September 09, 2007

What if the world DID turn upside down?

Last book about Cancer for awhile. I promise (but you know how much my blogging promises are worth).

I'm not a girl who weeps. I'm just not. I can count on one hand how many times books have made me cry. In Deadline, like in The Book Thief, the author tells the audience what will happen, and readers spend the rest of the book convincing themselves that there will be a last minute reprieve, much like anyone with a death sentence must think. We have as humans an incredible ability to deceive ourselves. But Chris Crutcher is all about the truth, and it is death and truth that we have to deal with alongside of Ben in Mr. Crutcher's newest novel. Deal and weep.

Normally, I'd give a little book talk here, but Ben does it better:

"I walked away understanding I have a rare form of whatever the hell it is and without treatment my chances sucked, but with it they still sucked and somehow I knew my chances aren't about living, they're about living well. I wouldn't recommend this for anyone else, but I'm not going out bald and puking. I don't have anything to teach anyone about life, and I'm not brave, but I'd rather be a flash that a slowly cooling ember, so I'll eat healthy food, take supplements, sleep good, and take what the universe gives me" p10.

So Ben doesn't tell anyone he's sick. He drops cross-country, where he was a star, and decides to become the smallest player on the football teem. He chooses to really take life in and question everything. This doesn't necessarily make him everyone's favorite person (especially not the government teacher). But you can't hide the fact that you are dying. Not forever.

Ben has a clear, striking voice that makes you love him from the first page: "My SATs said I wasn't even close to brain dead and I was set to be accepted at any college I chose, as long as I chose one that would accept me." The magic of Mr. Crutcher is that he can tackle every single hard, real issue out there and retain the humor. You laugh, and you cry, and you are immensely proud of his young characters that discover the strength they have within themselves. And he does it every time. Since knowing you are strong means that you have power, and since power is a dangerous thing indeed, I think that's the real reason his books are regularly challenged.

One thing I'd like to see (beyond the one character in Wale Talk) in Mr. Crutcher's work is someone with religion who isn't portrayed as hypocritical and narrow-minded. I don't know how one gets around an anti-gay mindset, but I know that there are those out there who proudly label themselves as Christian who don't equate homosexuality with sin. I just don't seem to know many. And, hey! Christianity isn't the only religion (and that's some of what always got dear, deceased Madeline L'Engle in trouble!). Anyway, I'd like to see him tackle religion in a positive light. I say this as a good little Agnostic.

Last word about Deadline: Best. English. Teacher. Ever. And he's so gonna take flak for him.

Here's something you haven't heard me say on this blog: I'm going to go buy several copies and hopefully get them signed, so I can hand them out. Like candy. Really good mind sustaining, it's-a-complete-diet candy. I say hopefully, as Mr. Crutcher is supposed to be at the bookstore downtown on Monday, September 17th, at 7:30, and I work until 8, 35 minutes away...sigh. *crosses fingers*

Be sure to log on to the Reader Girlz forum to chat with Chris Crutcher on October 9 at 5:00 pm PST (8 EST) as part of 31 Flavorite Authors every night in October. As a Reader Girlz Poster Girl, I get to moderate Mr. Crutcher's chat, but as you all will be perfectly behaved and have LOTS of great questions, I'm sure you won't need me at all!

Meanwhile, to whet your appetites since Deadline isn't out until September 18th (cruel world), see:

PW Interview (very good)
Finding Wonderland Interview (also great)
Bookshelves of Doom (review & SDQ interview)
Proper Noun


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jac. I am keen to read this one.

Unknown said...

Great review Jackie- really looking forward to this one. And as a Christian (who's down with the gays) one of my favorite characters *ever* is Ellerby from Staying fat for Sarah Byrnes. And his dad- great portrayals.

Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous that you get to meet Chris Crutcher! Oh the perks of living in the same city of a famous author :)

Jackie Parker said...

Miss going-to-Eclipse-Prom-in-the-sunny-climes, you say 'meet' I say wait in line to get something signed.

Sonia, I should revisit Sarah Byrnes. I loved it when I listened to it, but I should give it a good read. It's been a while.

Anonymous said...

Just got this in from the library! After reading your review I'm bumping it up on the TBR list!