Saturday, February 23, 2013
Sometimes I get overly critical. If you are a die hard fan of Chris Crutcher, you might want to stop reading. I'm having a critical day.
Mr. Logsdon is the cool teacher. He has a group called Period 8 and he invites students to come to his classroom over their lunch hour and talk about life openly. It is a place to be honest, but not everyone is being completely truthful. First Paulie, the supposed good guy, cheats on his girlfriend Hannah. This happens as Mary Wells, the school good girl, goes missing. Student body president, Arney, makes a big show of knowing Mary better than anyone and saying that he's sure that she's fine, but he'll look into it, and while everyone is feeling vulnerable, he throws out some backhanded comments and lectures everyone about respect and getting to know their peers better. There are other characters that muddy the waters and other events that seem only to complicate what is already a full story.
Even the tag lines for this book are in competition: "They told him it was safe. They lied." What was safe? Period 8? High school? The world in general? "The ultimate bully and the ultimate good guy tangle in Period 8". Okay, Paulie is not the ultimate good guy and I can't get into the bully because that would be giving away the ending, just know that he's crazy, but could easily be contained.
Get ready for even more criticism.
But first some confessions. This is the first Chris Crutcher novel that I have read and I wonder if that is half of the problem. Maybe all of his novels are a mix of convoluted characters and intense plot lines. I had a lot of trouble not only following the plot but also believing some of the less important details, which we'll get to later.
Also, I read a very poorly formatted ARC from Edelweiss on my Kindle. There were several grammatical errors, like in most ARCs, but on every other page, the title and author would appear in a strange font. There are also a lot of point of view changes in this book, and the ARC did not do a good job of transitioning from one narrator to the next, but this is something that will be more apparent in the actual book.
And now I will seemingly destroy a book that is likely to win acclaim by all.
Some of the things that bothered me the most we insignificant, like Period 8 itself. It seemed that all of the kids were hanging out during lunch. But 8th period would meet around 1:30ish. I guess that I can't understand that because I was always stuck with 4th period lunch at 10:45, so such a late lunch time is unfathomable. And the very idea that Logs (what they call their hip teacher) would cultivate a lunch group like this is also strange. It's not a school club, yet it seems rather exclusive, like you have to be invited to attend and it almost gives the air the preferential treatment. Maybe this isn't all that weird, but the whole thing with Period 8 struck me as odd.
While the plot moves quickly and really does suck you in if for no other reason than you are so confused you have to keep moving to make sense of all of this non-sense, it's too much. (Kinda like that last sentence.) This is an example of a book that tried to do too much. There's the Paulie-Hannah Relationship plot line, the Mr. Logsdon Retiring plot line, the Mary Wells plot line, the Something's Up with Arney plot line, and then these random mini plots like Kylie's breakdown, and Bobby finally sticking up for himself. I realize that the overall message here is that everyone is fighting a different battle, but there were too many battles here, and I have a feeling that resolving them was a little more than the author could take.
I think the thing that ticked me off most about this book is the chaos of it all. There were narrators coming and going at random intervals, some scenes in italics for little reason, characters that seemed bipolar, but weren't actually, just troubled. It was too much to follow and not enough of a payout.
All that said, I flew through the book. I had to know what happened, because this whole time you are wondering who's the psycho? Who's the bad guy? Turns out almost everyone you think it could be. So, while I found it completely confusing and frustrating, I kept going because I had to know what the heck was going on!
Maybe I'm so critical because I had a Mr. Logsdon in high school. I had a teacher named Mr. Hart that was awesome and would just talk with students like we were equals, which is rare in high school. Mr. Logsdon's character was a good one, but didn't quite ring true. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but maybe when you have an amazing, down-to-earth teacher in your life, the literary ones pale in comparison.
I'm probably not the best judge of this book. About half way through I started questioning little details that shouldn't have to be questioned, I was frustrated but intrigued, but not intrigued enough to put away my frustrations. I think I just need to tear apart a book, and maybe this one has been treated a bit unfairly. I personally wouldn't recommend this book, but that doesn't mean I don't think you should get out some other reviews on GoodReads or other blogs and make your own choices.
And if you feel like telling me why I'm wrong about this book, that's fine too. I have an open mind, so feel free to leave a comment.