Thursday, May 29, 2014
Crunch by Leslie Connor
I loved this. Loved loved loved. Let me count the ways. First off, the setting was really interesting. Just looking at the cover and reading the description didn't immediately make me think about a dystopian setting sometime in the future. And the fact that we're sometime in the clearly near future and gas has run out was what set the story in motion, but it wasn't about the dystopia itself. Like, you know, Hunger Games, and all those. That was just the time we're in. We don't get a lot of information about the world. It's mentioned there have been gas shortages before. And that maybe gas running out entirely will cause electric cars to come back. The police have a couple electric powered pods. But otherwise, we're just in a regular old world where something just slightly futuristic and dystopic is happening. Usually I want lots of world building, but this felt just right for the kind of book it was.
The story itself was not about the world, but about Dewey and his family and how they try to handle things while their parents are gone. The parents are absent for a completely logical reason - their father is a truck driver, and for their parent's anniversary their mother went on a trip with him. Then the gas ran out and now they're stuck far away. The parent's don't just disappear. They call home every night to check on their children and see how they're coping and do what they can to reassure them.
Dewey has four siblings, each with a very distinct, fully formed and threshed out personality. His older sister is Lil, who is 18 is an artist who overcomes her disappointment of her college art class being canceled by working on a gigantic mural on the barn. She's also in charge of keeping everything running smoothly and looking after the younger kids. Lil is fiercely independent, to the point of turning people away who want to help them out of genuine concern or kindness. She doesn't want people to think she can't handle it, or be indebted in any way.
Dewey's younger brother Vince is 13. Vince is an excellent mechanic, better then Dewey, but he's not good with people. They make him nervous and uncomfortable. Vince doesn't talk much, but he always has Dewey's back.
Finally there are the five year old twins Angus and Eva, who, of course, need a lot of watching out for and comforting when their parents don't come back.
Dewey is in charge of the bike shop, which is just a little family side business. Of course, with there being no gas, bicycle business booms, and it isn't long before Dewey is in over his head with the number of repairs people are expecting. Dewey doesn't want to disappoint his father, and he doesn't want to let Lil know that he's getting overwhelmed. Definitely a theme in the book was how it can be really hard to ask for help, and really hard to accept help when it's offered because of your pride.
Dewey has to deal with things his father always took care of. Talking to difficult and demanding customers, taking care of the money, doing inventory. When parts begin to go missing from the shop, Dewey at first thinks he's losing things. Then he suspects their bad tempered next-door neighbor. What he doesn't do is tell anyone what's happening. Again, Dewey doesn't want anyone to think he can't take care of the shop.
I really enjoyed the family dynamic, which I found realistic and refreshing. The kids are capable and smart, but being without their parents for so long takes its toll and tempers shorten and begin to fray. Of course, getting everything that's happening out in the opening and thinking about things in a new way helps everyone come together to make the best of the situation.
The book ends without us knowing what's really going to happen next. Will there be gas again? Is the world changed forever? We don't know. That was never the important part of the this story that focuses on a single family. Their parents are headed back to them, and they'll work it out together.