The Alex Crow
by Andrew Smith
Dutton Books, 2015, 317 pp., $18.99
Science Fiction, Cultural Fiction
Three strange stories proceed at once, one an historical account of an Arctic expedition, one the account of a crazy bomber driving cross country, and one a skewed summer camp narrative of the near future involving three teen boys—all of which connect finally. Much of the novel is absurd satire and laugh-aloud funny, requiring reflection about technology, the military, and the will to power through. Yet, as the boys overcome the insanity of their camp, as narrated by the 15-year-old war refugee protagonist, themes of friendship and compassion emerge. This is a creative and disturbing book, perhaps most appropriate for college freshmen. The story of the crazed bomber begins laughable but ends in a sad, nauseating way, and the rape scene in the refugee camp is deeply distressing. A book that captures both the emotions and thinking is valuable, but younger readers will need to discuss this with adults.