Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Crash Into Me

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
Press Release
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


tanita✿davis said...

....and yet, in that bewildering YA fashion, the cover doesn't match. It shows a couple instead of a quartet, her hand on him, a tattoo... as if it's all a big hot romance.


Liz B said...



Owen and one of the girls do start a kind of flirty romance; including her giving "tattoos" (writing with Ink, no real tattoos) to all four.

So instead of focusing on the quartet, it focuses on Owen and this one girl and the moment about 2/3 thru the book where they have connected (and which is, in the fuller picture of the book, also about when the kids move from suicidal thoughts)

Liz B said...

Oh! and that is exactly the tattooo she gives Owen.

tanita✿davis said...

*slightly mollified*
At least it makes sense now. One of the big complaints with YA and not getting boys to read it is that everything looks like a romance novel, with which, of course, boys allegedly would not be caught dead... I believe some girls cringe from that, too.

Summer said...

ooo yes I wanna read this. Thanks for the review. And thanks for the discussion about the cover cause I was wondering about that too. It didn't seem to match up.

prophecygirl said...

Thanks for this review, I am eagerly awaiting my copy, and it sounds great. I think the subject can be tough to pull off in YA, so I'm glad it's been done well!

Liz B said...

covers are so important. and yet...and yet...

what is a good cover?

I think this cover could say "romance" (and romance with a bad boy, no less). would it have been better served (and bigger appeal?) if the road trip (or even the suicide tour) been the focus?

bad covers, to me, fall into 2 categories. first, just artistically poor (can be personal, i know, but some things i look at and think, someone got paid for that?); second that misrepresent the book (a cover that NEVER makes sense); third, a cover that doesn't say "pick me up." tho I would further argue that one and three are the same thing.