by A.S. King
Reviewed by S.A.
As fall comes around again, a lot of us make our way back to school. It’s time for a high school YA, but a novel unlike any other. It’s almost indescribable, so I’ll try to do my best with this review, but I doubt I’ll capture it perfectly. It’s another novel that I find hard to place in any category: a surrealist YA for anybody and everybody to enjoy.
Four talented teenagers are traumatized-coping with grief, surviving trauma, facing the anxiety of standardized tests and the neglect of self-absorbed adults—and they’ll do anything to escape the pressure. They’ll even build an invisible helicopter, to fly far away to a place where everyone will understand them… until they learn the only way to escape reality is to fly right into it.
Reading this book was like staring too long at a Dali painting: it almost began to make sense, but the significance of it all just flew over your head. I was caught between what was real, what wasn’t, and if it really mattered if it as real or not. I crawl through it is a book that teeters between reality and nonsense, but still managed to be captivating and engrossing.
Stanzi is a young woman who never goes without her lab coat. Her best friend, whose parents have a ‘dungeon’ in the basement, has swallowed herself whole, . Her crush, Gustav, is building a helicopter in his garage, which she can only see on Tuesdays: any other day, and it’s invisible. She’s friends with a girl whose hair grows every time she lies, and hangs well below her knees. Between her house and Gustav lives the dangerous bush man, who, for a kiss, will give you a beautiful letter to decorate your life. He’ll also give you the answers if you know how to ask. Their school keeps getting bomb threats, and every day there’s a drill. And that is their life.
Only there’s a whole lot more to it. This book had so much depth, it took me a while to ‘get’ it. These teenagers have complicated, complex lives, which leads to their – ahem – ‘unusual’ traits. As a reader, you wonder at every page if these are real traits, or something they have imagined up, so as to better understand their world. But does reality even matter, when all this is fiction anyways?
These characters have real depth, they are so much more than what they are on the surface. The author really manages to convey the difficulty Stanzi has relating with others, as she feels somewhat distant, even to us, who are allowed to see her perspective. The growing relationship between Gustav and her, which seems natural, unexaggerated. While I was very uncomfortable with the dangerous bush man at first, I’m very glad to have seen him develop as a person alongside our protagonists. It’s impressive how immersed in these young peoples’ lives you become, if you give this book a chance.
When you reach the ending, you really wonder what truly happened over the course of the novel. What did others see? Again, what is real, and what is not? I had many questions. I admit, my first reaction when I closed the book was What on earth was that? Somehow, however, the characters stuck to me. Their story meant something. As you start to understand the trauma they’re dealing with, you find yourself relating in ways you might not expect.
This is a fantastic book for people keep asking questions. It may not have the answers, but it has a string of them: ABDECBACDBABA… might not be what you’re expecting, but you’ll definitely enjoy your reading experience.
Fair warning: it is surreal. And weird. And there are many feelings to be had. I Crawl Through It comes out today, September 22nd. Enjoy!