The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I think this book is a sign that Andrew Smith might definitely need some psychiatric attention. Sure, there's a bit of his usual good old-fashioned Mind Screw, and more than a bit of his usual good old-fashioned boyish black comedy and/or crude humor (in particular, the boys in this book make it an art form of inventing insanely, ridiculously original euphemisms for jerking off - with some of my personal favorites being "running off to make photocopies," "releasing the combat troops," and "working out with the swim team.")
There are some things this book doesn't have compared to some of his previous entries, though. Here, the main character isn't questioning his sexuality like in Grasshopper Jungle or Marbury Lens (and especially Passenger.) That's not what's disturbing about this book, though. There are more differences that are.
Here, the main character has more horrors in his past. Here, there's something that allows this book to border on Tarantino territory - rape and revenge. Here, there's a crazy lady who thinks men should be extinct (and you thought the testicle-dissolving corn was messed-up enough.) Here, there are gruesomely scatalogical ghost stories and other nightmarish tales. Here, there be the dragons of serious mental illness (one of which is Joseph Stalin). Here, there are so many plot threads that seem to not fit together at all, until the last minute, when they finally do. It's not as surprisingly easy to follow as Grasshopper Jungle as a result.
So here's a little question - is Smith giving himself nightmares writing the stories he does, or are they expressions of nightmares that are already there?
Overall, this story isn't quite like Grasshopper Jungle. Everybody (especially if you are now, or have ever been, a teenage boy) should read Grasshopper Jungle. But for The Alex Crow, read it at your own risk. You'll want to forget you ever did - but you can't.
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