Book Review: Athletic Shorts

“Superman’s not brave. […] He’s indestructible. You can’t be brave when you’re indestructible. It’s guys like you and me that are brave, Angus. Guys who are different and can be crushed–and know it–but go out there anyway.”

Athletic Shorts:  Six Short Stories by Chris Crutcher is…a book of six short stories.  All of the stories except one feature characters from his books Stotan!, Running Loose, and The Crazy Horse Electric Game.  Of those books, I have read exactly none–not that it matters.  The stories are accessible and stand up well on their own.  They are also slightly spoilery for the other books–not that that matters either.  If anything, they made me more interested in the stories and worlds featured.

What I Liked

– My favorite story is probably the first one, “A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune.”  Mine and Hollywood’s since it was turned into a movie.  At any rate, Angus’s parents are awesome, his voice is awesome, and the story is a lot of fun.  It’s one of the two more light-hearted of the six stories, so that’s also a plus.

– Even though these are short stories, they are clasic Chris Crutcher, dealing with issues of death, racism, abuse, guilt, homophobia, and bullying.  You know, the usual.

– “The Telephone Man” is the story about racism and it is uncomfortable to read because it’s from the POV of a racist, but I liked its honesty.  Before each story is a small explanation for it, and this is what Crutcher says about Telephone Man:

Racism speaks volumes about those who hide behind it, says exactly nothing of those at whom is it directed.

I think the story does a great job of exposing the kid who hides behind racism and also where he gets his ideas.  (Hint:  It’s his daddy!)

– I loved the story about homophobia.  It was very affecting.  Great characters.

What I Didn’t Like

– I think there was maybe one story I’d count as a weak link.

In conclusion:  One weak link makes for a very solid short story collection.  It’s  a great introduction to the themes that dominate Chris Crutcher’s works as well as to his storytelling style.  I liked it a lot.

YA Challenge:  3/75

Book Review: A Crooked Kind of Perfect

I was supposed to play the piano. […] I play the organ.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban can be summed up in the words of the Rolling Stones:  “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”  As the breakout quote shows, main character Zoe wants to play the piano.  Instead, she gets an organ.  So the whole book is about how she deals with what she gets versus what she really wants.  You know, like an organ instead of a piano or a dad who is too scared to drive her anywhere versus the freedom to go to parties with her friends.

What I Liked

– I loved the characters.  All of them.  They are awesome.  From her comptroller mother to her slightly autistic/socially anxious dad to her music teacher to the bully turned friend.  I was sad when the book was over because I wanted to spend more time with the characters.

– I liked that the dad was this complicated man who wanted the best and meant the best but didn’t know how to achieve that exactly.  Which could be said for all of the characters.

– I loved the emphasis on practicing your craft.  Zoe wants to be a prodigy.  She isn’t.  Zoe wants to play beautifully but thinks it should come naturally.  But her mom shows her in the best way possible (LOVE HER MOM) that it takes practice to make it sound effortless.

– “Just keep playing.”  (The musical equivalent of “Just keep swimming.”)

– I always feel funny shipping tweens but at the same time, OMG, I JUST WANTED THOSE TWO CRAZY KIDS TO WORK IT OUT.  Hand holding, burping contests, hanging out at each other’s houses, walking home from school together.  Cute, cute, cute, cute!  I wanted more middle school cutesy dating stuff even if it’s not really dating.

– I thought all of the relationships were really well handled and developed.

– I loved the resolution of all of the conflicts in the book.  All of them

What I Didn’t Like

– The book was too short.  It was the perfect length for what it was trying to accomplish, but, as I said earlier, I wanted it to be longer so I could spend more time with the characters.

In conclusion:  The title of the book is spot on.  It is a crooked kind of perfect–just a little slice of perfection, really.