Something I think that you guys should know about me is that I’m a sucker for disaster stories (tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, fires, etc.). But the one subcategory of disaster stories that I don’t like have to deal with school shootings. As a kid who grew up watching the events of Columbine and Virginia Tech break through the news, that sort of stuff just… well, it depresses me. So I wouldn’t want to spend my time reading about it either, but yet when it comes to Crash and Burn why did I feel the need to add it to my reading list? Honestly? It was mostly the cover that drew me in. At first glance (especially on a crowded shelf in the bookstore) the matchsticks kind of look like the Twin Towers. Despite my better judgement I added the book to my list and I really wished I hadn’t.
Crash and Burn follows the story of Steven Crashinsky (or Crash for short) and his life after the events of April 21, 2008. On this date, David Burnett (aka Burn) held the school hostage and Crash saved them all. Now, he has to deal with the fame of being a hero and a book deal is offered his way. But unlike other books that talk about what happened during the year that lead up to the event, the publishers want something more. They know that Crash and Burn were friends during elementary school and ran in the same circles, so they want the behind the scenes story of who Burn was before the events of 4/21. Crash is more than willing to comply (the nice advance helps) and tries to get to work on the book. The problem is that he has ADHD and never was a good writer to begin with so he decides to start from the beginning when Burn and him first met.
What follows is a back and forth tale – the present Crash and the past Crash – that spans over 460 pages before you get to the whole reason Crash is writing this book in the first place. Crash talks about his friends, family, and Burn’s family. Apparently when they first met Burn had just lost his father – he was in the North Tower on 9/11 – and wasn’t dealing well with the events. He hates school and will do anything to leave, including almost setting the building on fire. Anyone else have alarm bells in their head? It only gets worse when Burn comes back from suspension and threatens to make Crash’s life a living hell. Thankfully, Burn leaves for military school for a few years and doesn’t see Crash again until their freshman in high school. Always remember this: Revenge is sweet.
To be honest the whole flashing back and forth thing kind of drove me nuts. I didn’t really care for Crash as a narrator either. He fucks up a lot and blames his ADHD for mostly everything. He gets high. He gets drunk. He cheats on his girlfriends. All he wants is sex. Honestly 100 pages in I was willing to give up on the guy, but his weird friendship with Burn made me too curious to stop. As he goes deeper into the events that led to 4/21 I really wanted to know why he took so long before telling anybody about how messed up Burn was? I mean, he kidnaps a fellow classmate of theirs and takes her across state lines. And when he goes to get her with the help of Burn’s sister, he pulls a gun on them. Seriously. The alarm bells are deafening and yet no one really heard them.
Final Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. The book jacket claims that this novel is shattering, a tale of first love and first hate, the story of two high school seniors and the morning that changed their lives forever. But honestly? It isn’t all that shattering and it isn’t a tale about the morning that changed their lives forever (seriously that only takes 58 pages of a 532 paged book). It’s about the events that led up to that morning and how someone should have seen the signs sooner and how because they didn’t, the attempt to save the kids fell on a kid himself.
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