Title: Crash Into Me
Author: Albert Borris
Genre: YA, contemporary
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: July 7, 2009
Synopsis from Goodreads: Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: they all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, the four teens make a deadly pact: they will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides…and at their final destination, they will all end their lives. As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living–or if there’s no turning back.
Crash Into Me puts readers in the driver’s seat with four teens teetering on the edge of suicide. But will their cross country odyssey push them all the way over? Only the final page turn will tell, in Albert Borris’s finely-crafted tale of friendship forged from a desperate need of connection.
First of all, super thanks to Andi for sending me this one! It was a nice read for my night. I actually finished this one in two hours, and despite the fact that I’m not raving about it, it’s stuck with me for a while now, even before I sat down to write my review. At first I thought it’d be a tearjerker – I mean, did you read the synopsis? But instead I was left feeling melancholy, and a little bit lonely. And I’m not sure why, to be honest. This book hit me right in the chest, and despite the depressing subject matter, the little bit of hope at the end turned my melancholy into a bittersweet smile.
There were actually only four characters in this book, disregarding incidental characters that the four encountered. I was really happy to find that they were all pretty well developed, even though I would have liked to get just a bit more information about their backgrounds before they all met up to make the Suicide Dogs.
Owen: I identified with Owen the most, as far as personality. He’s very introverted, researches strange topics obsessively, and full of facts that he finds interesting but most people find useless and time-wasting. His narration was a bit fractured for me, and a bit lacking in detail, but that’s the kind of person he was. Not entirely there in the moment, but rather stuck in his head and his own memories and how he interprets his surroundings. Out of the four, I think he was the most suited to be the narrator – the most level-headed. Which is ironic, seeing as he’s the one who comes closest to actually committing suicide in the end. But in that attempt, it also showcases how truly central he is to the characters and their journey.
Jin-Ae: I actually liked Jin-Ae the least, but not for any particular reason actually. She just didn’t have the same emotional impact as the other characters did, probably because her main issue was the fact that she couldn’t come out as gay to her parents. Being straight myself, that immediately created a bit of an issue when trying to relate to her. Her personality, however, was the most sunshiny out of all four. She’s a bit wacky, but in an endearing way. If Owen was the head of the four, Jin-Ae’s the heart.
Frank: I’m alternately liking and disliking Frank. Though I think dislike is the wrong word – I felt the most angry at him, because he was destroying himself and his friends in the process with his drinking. He constantly said how his father was an alcoholic and he hated it, but then followed that same path. But in that, I think Frank had some of the best growth out of the four. He made the choice to not be like his father, in the end, and I found myself warming up to him as the book progressed. Frank was like the backbone in the group, making sure they had food and a place to sleep, not to mention doing most of the driving.
Audrey: Audrey actually reminds me a lot of Alaska Young from John Green’s book. She’s the head of most of their crazier plans, and is a compulsive liar to top it off. I think Audrey is the portrait of depression that people most often dismiss: she didn’t have anything horrifically tragic (not compared to Owen at least), but that doesn’t make her depression any less real. And in that I loved her, because when she finally was honest about everything, she was just a person, not a headline about a pedophile stepfather. In that she became the most relatable, and she’s probably my favorite character out of the four. Audrey is the soul that carried all of them through the journey, and forced them to see that there’s a possibility of a future.
Concept: Definitely unique, as far as I’ve read in the YA contemporary genre. I’ve found that I really do enjoy these “hard topic” books, because if they’re done the right way they really leave an impression on me. For CIM, I’d say it was halfway there. I liked the final message of the book, but the getting there was a little shaky.
Plot: I liked how it started, but it became a bit convoluted when the characters started taking all their side trips to the locations that weren’t suicide markers or graves. They were important for the development of the four, but I think it could have been spaced a bit better for pacing issues. And the very end came up a bit abrupt for me; I would have liked to see what happened to the four after they decide to live – the repercussions of it all and how they moved on and began to truly live.
I did like the finally message of the plot, though, and how it was handled. Life is worth living – no matter how horrid it may seem in this moment. There’s something to live for, no matter how small or how far out and unrealistic it is. Also, even though the end wasn’t climatic or some huge revelation about life, I think it was more realistic. There’s not always an epiphany – it’s just the small realization, that, hey, I want to live. There are still problems and pains and tears to fight through, but the simple fact that you’ve decided to live is all you need sometimes. Not a blown up dramatic moment where everything is suddenly right in the world.
There was a bit of bouncing back and forth in time, in the shape of the IM messages the four sent each other before meeting in real life being interspersed with real time and the road trip. In this case I think it worked, because their plans and personalities were all slowly unwoven as the book progressed. And I really liked the Top Ten lists that they kept creating – they demonstrated the changing mindsets of all four from set on suicide to hopeful for a future.
No, I’m not raving about this book. There were a few problems, like not feeling there was as much backstory as there could have been, and a slightly meandering plot. But I’m glad I read this nevertheless, because it gave me a lot to think about, and a little bit of hope for myself. Crash Into Me will stick with me for a while, and I recommend it for a quick read, at least once.
My Final Rating: (technically a 3.5)
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Food for thought (sound off in the comments!)
If you’ve read the book:
- Who was your favorite out of the four main characters? Do you think Owen was a reliable narrator? Would multiple perspectives work better for this kind of book?
- Did you think that Audrey was just a faker, or do you think she suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies just as much as the others, even though she had lied about what really happened to her?
If you haven’t:
- How do you feel about “hard topic” books? Do you think they’re more for the exploitation of headline issues, or do you think YA authors should address them more often?
- Do you think depression in characters should only be used if they have a traumatic past, or do you think authors should write more characters that struggle with depression even if they haven’t experienced tragedy?