Sunday, April 5, 2015

Book Review: The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Okay, look, I get it, I mention Andrew Smith on here a little too much than is healthy.  In fact, I'm expecting a cease and desist letter from his lawyers any day now.  But I have to talk about THE ALEX CROW.  I can't not talk about it.

(And that, my friend, is what you call an excellent book cover.)
First, it's important to know that I think there are two types of Smith novels--the YA contemporary ones (WINGER, 100 SIDEWAYS MILES, etc.) and what I guess I'll refer to as the Keep YA Weird ones.  This last group is the name of Smith's latest book tour and includes GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE and THE ALEX CROW.  And yeah, weird is the right word for them, but they're what I'd call 'accessible weird', not--and this is a pet peeve of mine--'weird for weird's sake'.  These Keep YA Weird books are where Smith really breaks the chains and soars.  I've learned that the novels that I really, really go nuts over are books I understand I never could have written them.  The ideas are either too big for my puny brain or the plots are too creative or the writing is just beyond what I could ever pull off.   That's the way I see Smith's Keep YA Weird novels.  There's absolutely no chance I could've written GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE or THE ALEX CROW because they're that original and individualized.  No one but Smith could have written those novels, and that's probably why I love them so much.

As I've mentioned before that I'm terrible at summarizing books, and trying that with THE ALEX CROW would be an exercise in futility, but what the hell, why not give myself a headache?

THE ALEX CROW is three intersecting plot lines, the most prominent of which is about Ariel, the sole survivor of an attack on his small village who now lives in West Virginia and is sent to summer camp which may or may not be run by a corporation responsible for de-extincting (yeah, not a word, shut up) animal species and creating biodrones, which are living, breathing bombs.  And there's a plot about a melting suicide bomber on his first (and, by definition last, duh) mission.  And a plot about a man/creature found in the ice in the 1800's.  And there's a suicidal crow.  And camp cabins named after planets.  And a sleep device that accidentally brought down a jetliner.  And Joseph Stalin.  And...cripes, why did I even try?

Look, it's impossible to explain, okay?  But it's original, hilarious, and fantastic.  It's also the reason, and I continue to stand by this, that I say Andrew Smith is one of the best writers working today.

As the police are at my door wanting to determine if I'm a risk to anyone, I'll end this now.  But seriously, go buy this book and see what happens when a writer really decides to not just push the boundaries, but sledgehammer them into dust.

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