#2 Billy Bartholomew has an audacious soul, and he knows it. Why? Because it's all he has left. He's dead.
Eddie Proffit has an equally audacious soul, but he doesn't know it. He's still alive. These days, Billy and Eddie meet on the sledding hill, where they used to spend countless hours - until Billy kicked a stack of Sheetrock over on himself, breaking his neck and effectively hitting tilt on his Earthgame. The two were inseparable friends. They still are. And Billy is not about to let a little thing like death stop him from hanging in there with Eddie in his epic struggle to get his life back on track.
Awards & Reviews:
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)
Another dead narrator! Billy Bartholomew dies when he is crushed in an accident. After death, he lingers in familiar places because of his concern for his best friend Eddie, who also is grieving for his own father. Billy makes himself known to Eddie and tries to get him through an impossibly difficult time in his life. Eddie's mother, also devastated by the death of her husband, has retreated to the fundamentalist church led by the Reverend Tartar. Eddie has the support of Billy's father, who is the janitor in their high school. Everything comes to a head when the religious right tackles the choice of a novel an English teacher requires. Billy's father gets fired for being on the side of the teacher. At this point, the story becomes rather didactic about why teenagers should be free to read about lonely, distressed teenage characters. Chris Crutcher himself appears as a character in his own story. The way Eddie manipulates the situation, pretending to be ready for baptism in Rev. Tartar's church just as he is plotting to defy the church and defend the novel, is great fun, really, especially since he has the help of his dead friend Billy. Since most of us are caught up in the horrible cultural and political divisions in our country just now, as apparently Crutcher is as well, this is a satisfying catharsis. Librarians and English teachers will appreciate the defense of a student's right to read. However, there may be just one too many long speeches for YA readers to wade through - they can skim, however. And those in communities divided like Eddie's is will really understand the importance of the debate. By Claire Rosser. KLIATT Codes: JS - Recommended for junior and senior high school students.2005, HarperCollins, Greenwillow, 230p., Ages 12 to 18.
Crutcher takes the fad in authorial intrusion one better, inserting himself as a character in this metafictional novel with a heavy-handed message, a schizophrenic presentation and a highly entertaining plot. Eddie Proffit is the very definition of a sympathetic character, losing his Dad and best friend to violent accidents in the opening pages. His story is narrated in Lovely Bones -esque fashion by the dead friend, Billy, who, if not in Heaven, is in a very good place - free of pain and full of neat tricks to employ during his ghostly mission to help Eddie overcome sadness so deep he has stopped speaking. The exploration of death and of being silenced by grief takes a hairpin turn when book banning - a very different type of silencing - becomes the focus of the novel's second half. Eddie's elective mutism has his mother's minister, the villainous Sanford Tarter, convinced he needs to be baptized. Tarter also teaches English at the high school, but Eddie is enrolled in a class called Really Modern Literature, run by a librarian who prefers "books by authors who are still alive." She requires everyone read Warren Peece by the "relatively obscure" author Chris Crutcher. Naturally, this "good book with bad words" exercises Tarter, who incites a crusade to rid the library of all Crutcher's "irrelevant and only marginally well written" books. Plausibility is pushed aside for entertainment and moralizing - Billy's father loses his job as school janitor for reading the book aloud to students in the boiler room, a student comes out as gay at the public hearing, another admits openly that she cuts herself - but Eddie's cause, and his decision to speak out, is so honorable, these lapses are easily overlooked. The title - an allusion to a favorite spot the two friends enjoyed when both were alive - doesn't work but, despite its flaws, the story does. Ages 12-up.
Starred Review. Grade 7 Up-This clever, spirited post-modern meta-narrative is a quick read that is bound to be controversial. It has no profanity, sexual acts, drug or alcohol use, or bloody violence but takes dead aim at censors who can't get past counting swear words or the notion of a gay character who is still alive at the end of a book. Eddie Proffit, 14, is a prototypical Crutcher protagonist, a misunderstood teen who in quick succession has lost his father and best friend, Billy, in accidents. And he must deal with Mr. Tartar, who is both a feared English teacher at school and the minister to a flock of Protestant fundamentalists at the Red Brick Church. However, the author's approach to these familiar themes is fresh and fun, beginning when Billy, recently deceased, opts to keep his newly omniscient eye on Eddie, taking advantage of opportune "windows" to communicate, initially scaring Eddie into voluntary mutism but eventually working with him to bring about ... the climax of the book. This centers around the use of Crutcher's faux novel, Warren Peece, in class and the community-wide uproar over it. The author's obvious delight in writing himself into the story (complete with e-mail address) does not diminish its effectiveness, though he occasionally gets his religious icons confused. Crutcherisms such as "When something seems mysterious and magical, it's because we don't have enough information" meld neatly with upbeat metaphysical speculation to give teen readers an involving story and plenty to think about. -Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
Discussion Questions and Ideas:
Banned Books Online - http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/banned-books.html
Banned Books Week - http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bannedbooksweek.htm
The Freedom to Read Foundation - http://www.ala.org/ala/ourassociation/othergroups/ftrf/freedomreadfoundation.htm
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