Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan

The publication of Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan is very timely. The narrator, Steven “Crash” Crashinsky, relates how he managed, on April 21 of his senior year in high school, to stop a fellow classmate from blowing up the school and killing hundreds of people.

Crash has known the potential shooter, David “Burn” Burnett, since grade school, and in a slow, meandering narrative, Crash details their relationship over the years leading up to the fateful day that Crash became a national hero.

I had trouble putting down Crash and Burn. The narrator is a very flawed character, and the book is filled with unabashed teen-aged sex, drinking, and drug use. Part of Crash’s charm is that he knows he is not the hero he has been painted in the media. Crash has a very troubled relationship with his father, as well as a complicated relationship with both David Burnett and Burnett’s older sister. There are a lot of characters to keep track of in Crash and Burn, but that helps make the story feel like a memoir rather than a novel. There are a lot of people in our lives, and they don’t have to play a big role to be an important part of our story.

The book was not quite what I expected. Only a short portion of the book deals with the actual day that David Burnett took the school hostage (and that portion is tense and chaotic). But the details about Crash, Burn, their families, and their schoolmates that lead up to that day are also compelling. I winced at many of the exploits of Crash and his friends. I sincerely hope that all high schools today are not like the high school depicted in Crash and Burn. But I didn’t feel that the exploits were unbelievable.

Crash and Burn covers many timely topics. Crash has been diagnosed with ADD and struggles with his studies. Every student, weird, popular, or smart, worries about fitting in. The kids play a lot of video games, and watch a lot of stupid and violent movies. A girl is involved in internet porn. Everything is woven together in a credible way, and Crash has a strong and likeable voice. The circumstances that lead Crash and Burn to the faculty lounge on April 21 are messy, with no pat solutions offered.

Crash and Burn is a great read on an extremely relevant topic. Anyone who enjoys psychological fiction, plots that keep you guessing, and strong character development may enjoy reading it, and it would make a good book club selection.

I read an advance reader's edition. It is scheduled to be published in February 2013.

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