I need to admit a couple things. One, I would LOVE to meet Chris Crutcher and have coffee or margaritas or whatever that man drinks.
Two, I have read a handful of his books before; Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Deadline, The King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill Advised Autobiography, and The Sledding Hill (although I will wonder on a deeper level why he wrote himself into The Sledding Hill, I will always wonder but never want the answer). I tend to like his stories as the characters have a very realistic quality to them.
All of that being said, I desperately want someone else to read this and converse with about it. SO BAD.
An amazon summary to hook your interest if you aren't interested already, "Period 8. An hour a day. You can hang out. You can eat your lunch. You can talk. Or listen. Or neither. Or both. Nothing is off-limits. The only rule is that you keep it real; that you tell the truth.
Heller High senior Paul Baum—aka Paulie Bomb—tells the truth. Not the "Wow, that's an ugly sweater" variety of truth, but the other kind. The truth that matters. It might be hard. It often hurts. But Paulie doesn't know how not to tell it. When he tells his girlfriend Hannah the life-altering, messed-up, awful truth, his life falls apart. The truth can get complicated, fast.
But someone in Period 8 is lying. And Paulie, Hannah, and just about everyone else who stops by the safe haven of the P-8 room daily are deceived. And when a classmate goes missing and the mystery of her disappearance seeps beyond P-8 and into every hour of the day, all hell breaks loose." AMAZON LINK OF THEY COULD HAVE DONE WORSE
Other things I need to get off my chest. I fell for the red herring; I would like to say that I suspected the truth, but I didn't expect the deepness of the truth. I knew something was up, BUT WHOA. I didn't quite expect it to go so entirely where it did. I am moved by this.
If I had read this in high school (the subject matter, gravity of the situations, etc, would lead me to believe this a high school level book, but with TV the way it is and ten year olds watching HBO's Game of Thrones series, what do I know), I probably would have been trying to talk to every single person I had ever met in that building to just see if they were okay. I also would have been strangely suspicious of the student body council.
Now to the book itself.
Everyone seemed to swear a lot. I got used to it and desensitized to it very quickly. It became either less noticeable or less prevalent as the story went on.
There's a little foreword from Chris Crutcher in the beginning of the copy that I read where he kind of explains that there are characters from his other stories present. I don't remember which characters came from which books or who was who. I took it as it's own stand alone novel because it's been probably hundreds of books between since I read The Sledding Hill and now. My bad. However, I don't think that detracted from the book's own merit. If I didn't know they were characters from other books, I probably would assume they were all new characters and what not. So there's that.
In the same foreword, Chris Crutcher admits he threw in a psychopath and kind of amped the story up on steroids. It was a very intense ride.
That being said, the book begins with a startling scene of some sort of teenage prostitution scene. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THERE ARE GRAPHIC SEX SCENES EVERYWHERE. The tone, diction, and what is depicted in the scene implies three things; the girl is a teenager who most likely had sex with the man, the man is most likely older in age, and the girl is on some form of drug (whether it be birth control or something more mind altering, you don't know). That's basically two pages.
Then begins chapter 1 where Paulie explains to Hannah (boyfriend/girlfriend) that he cheated on her. The story throws us into Paulie's life and explains what he screwed up, what his folks are like, and breaks down who Paulie is while delicately portraying who Hannah is. It's all quite touching. Also, that jump from hotel room scene to Paulie/Hannah does not mean, by any means, that Paulie was the man in the hotel room. The hotel room scene seemed to serve as the launch board for the story; of the horror behind the scenes.
We're then shown Paulie's life surrounding his time at school and what Period 8 means to him. We meet a teacher who is referred to as 'Mr. Logs' or 'Logs' who is very down to Earth and understands on a fundamental level that young adults go through very deep, heart-wrenching problems - the same as the adults they will soon be. Logs treats all of his students with confidentiality and care; he's also not afraid of their swearing. It also happens to be his last year of teaching at the school. Anyways.
During all of this, the ripple effect of Paulie and Hannah's break up is starting to make small waves in their immediate social circle, until everyone becomes distracted by Mary's lack of attendance.
Mary is the straight A student with a bright future, seems to have a rigid father, and is often referred to as 'The Virgin Mary' as there's a belief that her father made her take a vow of celibacy and she'd probably be murdered if she broke it. Logs was concerned about Mary since she missed a week of school and that was very unlike her as she had a perfect attendance record up to that point.
Everything begins to unravel when her father files a missing person's report.
Hannah finds Mary by almost running her over with her car. Mary insists on going anywhere but home. Hannah took her back to her house, set her up in the guest room, and went to sleep herself. When Hannah got up, Mary was gone.
So where was Mary?
The whole book just raises so many questions of how people fundamentally look out for and care for one another. How do you survive high school? Is it with a supportive family? Is it with a group of classmates in period 8?
To take it farther, how do you handle your personal lives? How do you handle a nasty cycle of breaking up and getting back together that your parents do? How do you handle a controlling father? How do you handle parents that don't seem present in your life?
How do you handle a psychopath in all of that when you didn't even know they were there?
DUN DUN DUNNNNN.
But seriously, I think Crutcher took some very real problems that young adults struggle with and brought them to light; even if it was in a slightly unsettling way.
I enjoyed navigating my way through this book to weed out the 'true' story.
I also don't understand sports; there were a few segments with basketball where I just did not have a clue as to what was happening in terms of the game, but I understood the emotional undercurrents of conflict that took place amongst the bouncing orange ball.