BOOK REPORT for The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Cover Story: Could Be Better
BFF Charm: Let Me Love You
Swoonworthy Scale:
 0
Talky Talk: Carry These Stories
Bonus Factors:
 Culture Shock, Summer Camp, Weird Science
Relationship Status: Taking the Leap

 

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Alex Crow US

Cover Story: Could Be Better

This cover isn't bad, but I've just been spoiled by the awesome that an Andrew Smith cover typically delivers.

Howevs, the U.K. edition is an undeniable BEAUT.

Alex Crow UK-2

The Deal:

A year after surviving an attack on his village, 15-year-old Ariel now lives halfway across the world with his adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia. It's summertime, and Ariel and his new brother, Max, are spending it at a boys' camp for technology detox. 

Oh, and there are also a depressed reincarnated crow, a 19th-century Arctic expedition, and a crazy bomber who takes orders from the voice of Joseph Stalin. How are all these things connected to Ariel? Well, isn't it obvious? (Or, OK, maybe it's only obvious if you're Andrew Smith.)

BFF Charm: Let Me Love You

Uprooted from the shattered remnants of his previous life, Ariel is a quiet, solemn kid who's endured far too many horrors than anyone should. Thanks to his incredible resiliency, Ariel's experiences have not broken him, but I still want to hug him and make soup for him and whatever else my protective instincts can think of. I'd also join Ariel in figuratively shaking my head over the antics of his American peers at summer camp.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

The only kind of love in this book is between a boy and his hand, if you know what I mean. Seriously—you're going to learn a lot of new euphemisms for phallic masturbation.

Talky Talk: Carry These Stories

This book mostly takes place from Ariel's perspective at the summer camp, so there's a lot of crude but funny chatter among the boys. (Speaking of, there's also a small but definite wink to anyone who's read Grasshopper Jungle.)

In addition to Ariel recalling his life since the attack on his village, the narrative includes two seemingly isolated threads: the stories of the unhinged and potentially dangerous Leonard Fountain, and that of the Alex Crow expedition to the Arctic. Both are distinct from Ariel's voice, and all the pieces of the jigsaw work together harmoniously to tease and reveal the connections between everything. 

Bonus Factor: Culture Shock

When it comes to diversity, as different as the majority might find a minority, perception is a two-way street; the minority probably finds the majority to be dissimilar from themselves, too. Ariel is fluent in English, but that doesn't make things like American slang or the ease with which jerking off is discussed easier to understand. 

Bonus Factor: Summer Camp

Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys alternates between being a boot camp for technological addiction and one for weight loss. Ariel and Max have no need for either, but the camp is owned by their dad's company, so they're attending the tech detox cycle for free. The camp is super strict and generally miserable, but it's not without adventure and time-honored traditions like swapping scary stories. (Plus, the cabins are all named after planets and therefore ancient gods. HELLO, CAMP HALF-BLOOD.)

Bonus Factor: Weird Science

Ariel and Max's dad, Jake, works for the Merrie-Seymour Research Group in the Alex Division that specializes in reviving extinct animals. But as demonstrated by the projects that Jake brings home as family pets, resurrection has an unfortunate side effect of suicidal behavior.

Casting Call:

Dan Byrd and Adhir Kalyan as Max and Ariel (sort of)

These two are actually all wrong for the characters and not at all how I pictured either, but a story of two boys from different cultures getting to know each other reminds me of the short-lived CW show, Aliens in America. (Except, of course, Aliens is more upbeat and nowhere as filthy.)

Paul Dano as Larry

Larry's the counselor for Ariel and Max's cabin, and Paul Dano is my go-to for 20-something jerkface roles. I typecast for a reason.

Roseanne Barr as Mrs. Nussbaum

I actually pictured Megan Mullally as I was reading, but I think Roseanne would be a better fit for the camp therapist that's more than meets the eye.

Relationship Status: Taking the Leap

I'll admit; my attraction to this book was immediate, but I was hesitant to fall in love because I didn't know what was up with the side narratives. Where is this going? Why do they matter? Perplexed as I may have been, I placed my trust in this book anyway, and it took me on a wild and unpredictable journey. As the story unfolded, my curiosity was more than sated and my patience definitely rewarded.  

The Alex Crow is available now.