By Michael Hassan
Available now from Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
CRASH AND BURN lingered in my to-read pile because Bookworm1858's review cooled my enthusiasm for it. I gotta say, I think she hit a lot of the nails on the head.
CRASH AND BURN is an excellent book. Michael Hassan is a powerful, talented writer. CRASH AND BURN is his first novel and I'm quite excited to pick up his next book. It tells the story of two boys whose lives are entwined. Burn held his school hostage at gunpoint, planning to blow it up. Crash stopped him. The story moves back and forth in time, showing the boys' relationship since elementary and what happened to Crash after he became a hero.
The novel's biggest flaw is that Crash is a repulsive human being. He's quite often a good guy and a sweet kid, but he could be a good guy and sweet kid all the time. He chooses to do dumb things, things that are cruel and dangerous. He drives when drunk and/or high. He gets girls drunk and/or high to lower their inhibitions so they'll sleep with him. He convinces those same wasted girls that they don't need to use condoms.
Crash's incredible grossness is balanced by the fact that CRASH AND BURN has some of the best female characters I've read lately, and a lot of them point out that his behavior sucks. The girl who looms the largest is probably Roxanne Burnett, the older sister of Burn. I was more curious about what would happen to her than to the school, because I couldn't fail to notice that she was never in the present-day parts of the novel, curse my narrative instincts.
The past parts of the novel reminded me of MY FRIEND DAHMER by Derf Backderf, which I read late last year for the Cybils and has lingered in my mind ever since. Dahmer had certain qualities that would draw people to him, but mostly never quite fit in. The kids knew something was wrong. Burn certainly gets more help than Dahmer did, but even at his most normal Crash can still sense that Burn is on the edge of snapping.
CRASH AND BURN is a great novel, a memorable one, and I'm quite impressed. But I don't love it. Crash's substance abuse problems are serious. If there's ever a far future sequel, I wouldn't be surprised if he did a stint on Celebrity Rehab. And it is terrible, because he has the potential to be a great guy. His soulless father (the only thing he and Burn agree on) and ADHD are crutches he leans on to keep from changing. If only he had changed. I recommend CRASH AND BURN, but with reservations.