Crash into Me by Albert Borris. Simon & Schuster. Publication date July 2009. Copy supplied by Classof2K9.
The Plot: Owen's on a road trip with Frank, Audrey and Jin-Ae. It's not your typical group of friends. Their shared interest: suicide. They four teens are on a road trip to visit the graves of famous suicides. The trip will end in a suicide pact.
The Good: Crash Into Me starts with a gripping first line: "The third time I tried to kill myself I used a rope." From that moment on, you're pulled into Owen's life, wondering, will their be a next time?
These four teens aren't friends; well, not real life friends. The four met online, sharing their fascination with suicide and their own past attempts. Frank's was years ago; Jin-Ae, more recent; Owen has the most repeats (six, maybe seven if you count walking down a highway, tempting fate, waiting for a truck to come by to jump in front of); Audrey, the youngest, jumped off a roof and broke her legs, has scar on her head from hitting herself with a frying pan.
As the road trip moves from Boston (Anne Sexton) to Idaho (Ernest Hemingway), these four bond and find out more about each other. Jin-Ae is a lesbian who cannot tell her family; Frank loves sports but isn't good enough to compete so drinks; Audrey's father is in jail; and Owen's brother is dead and his father left the family.
These four are serious enough about suicide to make a pact; to talk over details; but it also quickly becomes clear that all are depressed. Suicide is an escape. An answer. For Jin-Ae, death is better than telling her parents the truth. Frank says, "there's no, like, way out of my family." Audrey tells him, "Just live your own life." "I can't," he answers.
This is more than just a morbid road trip. For each teen, it's the first time away from the family and friends that have failed them. Perhaps they can learn that they can live their own life. Early on, Owen thinks "I don't know if I want to die. I just want to be happy. I want to feel better."
Readers will root for Owen, the narrator, silent, lonely, and with his multiple attempts, the one who seems most serious; but as he comes out of his shell, as he begins to care for his fellow "suicide dog" pack, will he change his opinion of himself? His past? His life? Will he be happy? Can he feel better?
Borris has a great ear for dialogue; each teen is fully fleshed out and their banter is true to life. The parents are absent, seen from the view of their children, and their failings are all too human. A mother who cannot recover from the death of a child, a woman who married the wrong man, parents who see their daughter as they want her to be, a father who wants a star athlete son.
There is also humor! Top ten lists (Top Ten Weird Celebrity Death Sites) plus, well, teens being teens and goofing off and having fun.
Borris also takes a close look at society's obsession with not just dead celebrities, but suicides. Audrey is fascinated by Kurt Cobain; Jin-Ae is a Sylvia Plath girl (but they visit Anne Sexton because Plath is buried in England). While Audrey listens to Nirvana, and Jin-Ae reads Plath's poetry, there are other suicides about whom the teens know more about their deaths than their lives.
My 48 Hour Review
Guest Post From Senior Editor at Simon Pulse on Crash Into Me (at Class of 2K9)
Director of Publicity at Simon Pulse on Crash Into Me (at Class of 2k9)
The Compulsive Reader review
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy