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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Crash and Burn, Part II

Yesterday, I talked about what I liked about Crash and Burn.

crashburn 198x300 Crash and Burn, Part IIToday, I’ll talk about what I didn’t like.

In one word: sluts.

Crash is so perfectly described, so fully drawn — it is a great thing, to create out of nothing a fictional character who is so “real.” So real, that I got sick to my stomach about how he treated the women in his life.

I’ve gone around and around on this. Judge the book by the book: and it that sense, I loved it. Judge it by what it is trying to do: and again, it succeeds.

But by the end of the book — and maybe if this was a shorter book I’d feel differently — all I could think was, Crash is a selfish and manipulative dirtbag and I hope that it catches up to him sometime. Too bad it didn’t happen during the book itself. (Honestly, I want to use stronger language to describe Crash but I don’t want this post blocked).

Spoilers, from here on out.

There is a girl called Maddy. Maddy is rather a minor character; that’s another thing, how much weight do I give a rather minor part of the story? “Madelaine Brancato: Was once everybody’s mom. Super-responsible. But of course, thanks to me, as some people say — and I’m not gonna lie, they’re probably right — now the superslut of our graduating class.”

Maddy made the mistake of dating the charming if aimless Crash. Oh, at many points Crash denies that they were “dating” and it can be a bit confusing depending on what year he’s talking about. When Crash gets tired of her saying “no” to sex, he deliberately gets her drunk, trying to make sure she’s not so drunk she’ll pass out, arranging for a private place at a party for them to go to. That doesn’t work out, but what eventually happens is when Maddy gets tired of Crash pressuring her for sex, she gives him oral sex.

He, of course, tells all his friends.

Turned out that keeping the pressure on the bigger prize made the smaller prize easy to get. As in, every time we were together, I took out a condom or suggested that we have sex, and she said she wasn’t ready and then went down on me. It got to where it became automatic for her, without me saying anything . . . . So while I didn’t really feel anything for her, I was becoming addicted to getting head, so no way could I actually break it off with her.”

Maddy also becomes a bit of a “prize” in the contest between Crash and Burn.

And later, “to show off in front of my boys, I got Maddy superdrunk and then, to prove I could make her do whatever I said, I made her take her top off and even hook up with a genuine lesbian in the pool house in Kelly’s backyard.” And it just gets worse, and he knows he’s using her, and -

I just can’t.

I’m not going to argue about whether or not how Crash treats Maddy is authentic.

Obviously, the reason it bothers me so much is that it is authentic. Teenage girls are treated like objects, who exist to fulfill teenage male fantasies. The reason I am so bothered by how Crash views women and how he treats Maddy is because it is real.

It doesn’t mean I have to like it; it doesn’t mean I have to like Crash; it doesn’t mean that when I write a review, I’ll just ignore it as boys being boys. Too bad if this is what it means to be a girl today!

Of course, my reading was influenced by real life. By Kickstarter’s allowing the “Seduction Guide” to be funded. By reading posts like Female Sexuality in YA at Stacked. Or about Slut Shaming at WORD for Teens.

So, what do you think?

When a book illustrates an ugly truth about the reality of how some people treat others, how does that color your reading of the book?

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About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

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