Chris Crutcher has been writing for a while, probably longer than I’ve been actively reading YA (But I read FAST, so it’s like I’ve been reading it a lot longer!). I finally picked up a few of his books this past year, probably because my son is hitting his teens & I wanted to check them out.
And I love them.
There are many things to like about Crutcher’s novels.
- He writes tight, fast-paced stories.
- He brings, as far as I can tell, a new angle to the world of “jocks,” one I find intriguing.
- He is extremely funny.
- He is the master of the make-things-worse-then-make-them-worse-again technique.
- He can write what I call a “gut-punch,” an out-of-nowhere event that is so painful, it literally takes your breath away.
And this list doesn’t even mention my favorite thing about Chris Crutcher’s books. Here it is: he writes moral courage in teenagers better than anybody I’ve ever read. And I love it.
I don’t honestly know if this is a me-the-reader reaction, or a me-the-mom reaction. All I know is that, when I read Crutcher’s stories, I am filled with pride at the way his characters stand up for their rights and for others’ rights. I root for them to keep pushing the limits, to tell the clueless adult or peer the truth–again and again until they hear it or go away. I think about all the ways these kids, these characters, could back down and want to hug them for all the ways they don’t.
And, yes, I’m happy when my son reads one of Crutcher’s books and I see him reacting the same way (okay, maybe not with the hugs; that probably is a mom-thing). Because I think it validates something he believes about life and about himself, that this is the way to be, this is a strength to be proud of.
I don’t know if this means that Crutcher is writing reality or if he’s projecting into his fiction the world as he wants it to be, as he knows or hopes it can be. My guess is that he’s seen kids act out this kind of courage and that he’s celebrating them on the page, as well as setting off a spark of light in the kids, his young readers, who have that courage inside them.
What I do know for sure is that Crutcher writes with power and strength and humor, and he tells a story that has a point, without once lecturing or preaching. And that’s talent.
A talent I appreciate.
A few more author-appreciation posts for your reading pleasure:
- The Hate-Mongering Tart on Francesca Lia Block and Judy Blume
- Chronicles of a Newbie on Neil Gaiman
- Reading, Writing and Chocolate on Maureen Johnson
Thursday thanks to Sara at Novel Novice for the avatar!