So to make up for my short comings this summer I have tasked myself with reading four Young Adult novels. I was going to just review them but where’s the fun in that? Instead I have opted to write letters to each of the authors and post them here.
Book 1: Period 8 by Chris Crutcher
I chose this book because Crutcher is one of the few YA authors to write realistic fiction for boys. Because of that I tend to buy whatever he puts out, as do most libraries and so I wondered….is this guy any good?
Dear Mr. Crutcher,
It has been several weeks since I finished your novel. There were things I liked but many many more that I did not. The plot just wasn’t developed to the degree that it needed to be. I finished the book as confused as I was when I started it and since there is no sequel in the works, that’s just not cool!
Here is what I gleaned from the last 50 pages. Rich kids dad gives him money to practice investing, said kid starts a sex ring, made up of client we don’t get to know about, girls that really don’t fit the bill, and investors that are willing to flee the state at a moment’s notice…you know just in case their brilliant plan, masterminded by a seventeen year old boy with his allowance money, falls through. And this is just the sub-plot. The meat of the story(and insultingly obvious moral overtone) is that protagonist Pauly learns wonderful life lessons from his Vietnam vet/teacher mentor while differing from the bad guy (teen in this case) in every way possible. Oh yes and let us not forget Period 8…the mysterious curriculum free course in which teens talk about their problems with their favorite teacher, hugs abound, and midnight visits to his couch are totally standard.
I’ve read farfetched plots before, especially in teen books. But, come on there is no way this teacher spends that much outside class time with his students! There is a difference between a role model and that creepy coach you tell your feelings to.
I think you felt pressured to write something with sex, sports, and guns. Yes, those are hot topics for teen boys but I would urge you not to play it so safe. Give these kids a little credit. Perhaps consult the following examples of stellar realistic fiction for boys.
Paper Covers Rock-Jenny Hubbard
Dear Life, You Suck-Scott Blagden
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian-Sherman Alexie
Everyone Sees the Ants-A.A. King
Will Grayson, Will Grayson- John Greene