Books by Chris Crutcher

LOSERS BRACKET by Chris Crutcher
Released: April 3, 2018

"A portrait of a troubled family that falls short. (Fiction.14-18)"
Annie Boots, a talented white teen athlete in long-term foster care, employs an innovative strategy to circumvent an order prohibiting contact with her birth family. Read full book review >
PERIOD 8 by Chris Crutcher
Released: April 1, 2013

"Fast-paced intrigue keeps the reader hanging on as Paulie pieces together clues to the discomfiting truth behind the strange, shadowy behavior of people he trusted. (Fiction. 14 & up)"
Suspense, heartbreak, a healthy dose of athletics—this novel has everything that Crutcher's longtime fans have come to expect, and more. Read full book review >
DEADLINE by Chris Crutcher
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Star cross-country runner Ben Wolf learns during a physical that he has developed a rare, aggressive, fatal blood disease. Ben is not wholly surprised by this diagnosis because in his heart he has always known that he would not live to grow old. Rather than seek treatment, he swears his doctor to secrecy, hides the truth of his health from his family, friends and coach, and decides to go after the things he's always wanted but never pursued. Those things include football (not usually the sport of choice for an athlete weighing 123 pounds), statuesque volleyball player Dallas Suzuki and petitioning to have a street in town named after Malcolm X. After football season, Ben succumbs to his illness all too cleanly and almost glamorously, describing none of his symptoms but fatigue. More disappointing than that, however, are Crutcher's heavy-handed lessons on the ills of racial prejudice and the need for gun control. Many characters, from athletes to incest survivors, are merely variations from the author's past works; their troubles are treated with care but they are often too good, or bad, to be true. Ben, like the book itself, is likable enough, but ultimately forgettable. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
THE SLEDDING HILL by Chris Crutcher
Released: May 1, 2005

Eddie's "high-speed randomness" and habit of blurting outlandish questions at school and church are unappreciated. Within three months, Eddie discovers the bodies of the two most reassuring people in his life: his dad and his best friend Billie. Traumatized, lonely and scared, Eddie elects the safety of mutism. In death, Billie continues to watch over Eddie. Unnerved by this haunting, Eddie turns to the refuge of conservative religion. When his fundamentalist minister tries to enlist Eddie in a crusade to ban a novel from the school, Eddie emails the author requesting a letter to be read at the school board hearing. Enter Crutcher as the author of the banned book . . . a character in his own story. This sly conceit works for Crutcher who disarmingly pokes fun at himself. Weaving together Eddie's personal survival and his losing battle against censorship, this succeeds by limning its polemics with artful humor. This oft-censored author entertains, inspires, invites intellectual inquiry and concedes well-meaning motives to both sides . . . a lot to pack into a novel, but when did Crutcher ever pack light? (Fiction. 12-16)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2003

Telling the story of growing up in a tiny Idaho town, Crutcher relates how "an unusual path leads from my life as a coonskin-cap-wearing, pimply-faced, 123-pound offensive lineman with a string of spectacularly dismal attempts at romance, to a storyteller of modest acclaim." His father was a bomber pilot who had settled into a small-town life of running a wholesale oil and gas business, his mother a ghostly, drinking, chain-smoking presence who died of emphysema. Early scenes read like Gary Paulsen's Harris and Me (1993) or Jack Gantos's Jack Henry tales. Now a child-abuse therapist, Crutcher is clear that his awareness of social cruelty began with the adolescent cruelty of high-school life. What might have been just a volume of funny or unsettling anecdotes becomes a candid take on lessons learned, with a clear adult perspective. This is a good read and a deeply moral and philosophical work with important messages about life, death, relativity, heroism, and why bad things sometimes happen to good people. Like Gantos's Hole in My Life (2002), it tells a strong story to get at strong truths. Essential for the many fans of Crutcher's work, and new readers will go from here to his fiction. (Nonfiction. YA)Read full book review >
WHALE TALK by Chris Crutcher
Released: April 30, 2001

High-school senior The Tao (T.J.) Jones has learned to live with his status as the only student of color in his small, rural high school, but he has never learned to accept the school's suffocating reverence for the athletic establishment. When his ultra-cool English teacher approaches T.J. to swim for the school's brand-new team, T.J. looks beyond the negatives—there is no competition-size pool in town, there are no other competitive swimmers in the school, and he absolutely hates organized sports—to one overwhelming positive: this is his way of giving the finger to the school's stultifying sports culture. He assembles a team of out-and-out losers that would make James Watt proud: "we have one swimmer of color, a representative from each end of the educational spectrum, a muscle man, a giant, a chameleon, and a one-legged psychopath. When I envision us walking seven abreast through the halls of Cutter High, decked out in the sacred blue and gold, my heart swells." There is no shortage of raw emotion in this story. The swim-team members indulge in lengthy informal therapy sessions on their bus trips to away meets, and one subplot involves T.J.'s growing attachment to a little biracial girl whose mother cannot protect her from the vicious racist attacks of her own stepfather—who also happens to be the school's biggest athletic booster. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, the tale would fall apart under its own weight, but Crutcher (Ironman, 1995, etc.) juggles the disparate elements of his plot with characteristic energy, crafting a compulsively readable story that rings true with genuine feeling and is propelled by exhilarating swimming action to an ending that is both cataclysmic and triumphant. A welcome return. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
IRONMAN by Chris Crutcher
Released: April 1, 1995

A teenager holds the moral high ground, but doesn't know what to do there until wise advice sets him straight. Bo Brewster has already taken years of bullying from his father; when his football coach/English teacher tries the same tactics, Bo leaves the team, blows up in class, and winds up forced to join an early morning anger management group to stay in school. As both personal test and statement, he also begins to train intensively for Yukon Jack's Eastern Washington Invitational Scab- Land Triathlon. Crutcher's background as a family therapist comes out on nearly every page here, as Bo writes analytical letters to talk-show royalty Larry King, conversations within the group become confessions, and the presiding teacher—cast as a drawling Texan ex-bronco rider of Japanese descent—dispenses perceptive comments about anger, fear and self-knowledge. Bo is surrounded by a colorful array of sages (including Lion Serbousek, baddest of the bad in Stotan!, Greenwillow, 1986, and now, ironically, a school counsellor who is gay), jerks and journeymen adults with damaged souls—most of whom are groping their way toward maturity. As always, Crutcher tells a potent, well-knit story, with moments both horrific and hilarious, and a cathartic but not unrealistic ending. Less intense than Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes (Greenwillow, 1993), this is still strong enough to carry its messages with reasonable ease. (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1993

Once again, Crutcher assembles a crew of misfits to tackle the Big Issues. Sarah Byrnes, her face hideously scarred from what she calls a childhood accident, sits silent and withdrawn in the psychiatric ward; her friend Eric (``Moby''), who has admired her since grade school as the toughest person he knows, wonders what could have finally pushed her over the edge. Between trenchant classroom confrontations over abortion and other religious controversies, exhausting swim team workouts, and a sudden relationship with a classmate, Eric loyally finds time to visit Sarah. Enter Virgil, her psychotic father, who speaks only in threats; in a terrifying passage, he stalks and stabs Eric in order to learn where Sarah (who has escaped) is hiding. Though Crutcher doesn't always play fair in developing his themes—all the conservative Christians here are humorless dupes or hypocrites, and one tries to commit suicide after it comes out that his girlfriend had an abortion—his language, characters, and situations are vivid and often hilarious. In the end, he deals out just deserts all around: Eric gets a stepfather he can respect; Virgil, a vicious mauling plus 20 years in stir; Sarah, a new and loving set of parents. Readers may find the storybook ending a welcome relief, though it does seem forced after the pain that precedes it. Pulse-pounding, on both visceral and intellectual levels—a wild, brutal ride. (Fiction. YA) Read full book review >
THE DEEP END by Chris Crutcher
Released: Jan. 21, 1992

Family therapist Wilson Corder, treating Peggy Parker and her young son Jerry after Jerry's sister Sabrina has been kidnapped, feels sure that Peggy and Jerry are hiding something—but before he can get Jerry to open up to him, he's warned off the case by letters and calls threatening him and his shattered family. Torn between his ex-wife Sarah's demands that he give up the case and his feisty daughter Emily's urging him on, even after she's attacked herself, Wilson hears that Sabrina's body has been found—just as another of his cases, his play therapy with three-year-old Craig Clark, is raising the ugly possibility that Craig's been abused by his stepfather, hotshot domestic-violence expert Dr. Jeffrey Banner. Though the plotting (crucified cat—colleagues' freeze-out— threatened kids—motorcycle chase—apocalyptic face-off with villain from hell) is standard fare, YA-author Crutcher's needle-sharp focus on hurting kids makes this memorably harrowing from the starting gun. Read full book review >
ATHLETIC SHORTS by Chris Crutcher
Released: Oct. 23, 1991

Six short stories, five of them about characters from Crutcher's novels. The protagonists are involved in sports, but the real theme is growing—grappling with something tough and finding the courage to carry on. For instance, in ``A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune'' (originally published in Connections, 1989, edited by Don Gallo), huge Angus has been elected Senior Winter Ball King as a joke: he can't dance. Too proud to stay away yet terrified to go, his problems are complicated by his secret love for the elected queen and by the fact that kids have always teased him because both his parents are gay. With wry courage, Angus achieves a triumph that should lighten any reader's spirits. The so-vulnerable Lionel (Stotan!) tries desperately to forgive the boy who caused his parents' and brother's deaths; less successfully, ``Telephone Man'' (The Crazy Horse Electric Game) is slowly loosening the heavy racism placed on him by his beloved father. In ``The Pin,'' Johnny wrestles his father in a can't-win battle neither wants to win—or lose; ``The Other Pin'' is about a wrestler in love with the girl he's supposed to beat at an upcoming match. Finally, ``In the Time I Get,'' Louie Banks (Running Loose) overcomes another kind of prejudice when he befriends a stranger who has AIDS. An involving group of stories, somewhat uneven in focus but all thought-provoking and discussable. (Fiction. 12-15) Read full book review >
Released: April 25, 1989

"Human beings are connected by the ghastly as well as the glorious," the author says—and demonstrates—in this intense, painful novel. Teen-age characters have been knocked around in Crutcher's other stories, but not to this extent: Dillon Hemingway, still trying to recover from the effects of watching his older brother Preston commit suicide, meets Jen Lawless, a classmate who's been sexually abused—first by her father, then by her stepfather. The other woman in Dillon's life is Stacy, Preston's old girlfriend, who took a long trip after Preston's suicide and now has a baby she claims is her cousin's. Threats of violence—from a motorcycle gang looking for Dillon and from JeWs twisted stepfather—underscore acts of courage: Jen finally confiding in Dillon, Stacy announcing over the school intercom that the baby is actually hers. Told partly in long, articulate letters from Dillon to his dead brother, and partly in a third-person narrative with the point of view shifting from one character to another, the story has a patchwork quality. Stacy, Jen, and Dillon cut noble, heroic figures that, with the toe-neat ending, give this an air of unreality; even so, Crutcher probes so many tender areas here that readers may end by feeling exhausted and emotionally bruised. Read full book review >