Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Review: Period 8

Period 8
By: Chris Crutcher
Published by: HarperCollins
Release date: march 26, 2013
Genre: YA contemporary
320 pages
Source: purchased by reviewer

I am a huge fan of Chris Crutcher, having read and recommended his work for years. I was very excited to hear that he had a new novel in the works, and was glad to finally get to it.

Period 8 gets its title from a class that many of the characters attend at the local high school. The class is a cross between homeroom and therapy group: teens voluntarily attend, they talk through what's going on in their lives, they bond with the adult mentor, and they do zero academic work. It's a unique framing device for a YA novel- unless, of course, you've read Crutcher. If you have, you know that he's used a similar device before, though you won't mind that he's re-used the material.

The framing device is not the only classic Crutcher element in the book: there's a swimmer guy (or two), the crazy teacher who doesn't care if his actions/word choice gets him fired, and parents who are an even bigger mess than their kids are. There's a good dose of nostalgic elements to satisfy old fans, but new readers will enjoy the read without the familiarity.

The plot is very discovery-based, and doesn't always appear to be linear. The pieces don't fall into place until the very end, in the big reveal scene. Some of the seeming-meandering is a result of keeping up with the activities of several characters at once. If the reading seems slow and/or disorganized at first, stick with it. It will all eventually make sense.

A word on that ending: One character does not get an entirely happy ending in the book. If that will bother you, just skip the last page or two. the book is perfectly complete without it. Personally, I appreciated the message: in real life, people who endure trauma often don't get a nicely resolved story line; they suffer the effects of that trauma until they are able to get help. In my imagination, that character will eventually get help and be okay; she's just not there yet.

I am compelled to address this cover. To be blunt, I think it is misleading and a poor representation of Crutcher's work. For one thing, the quote on the cover doesn't jive with the plot. WHO told him WHAT was safe?? I'm just saying, as an accomplished reader who has finished the novel, I should be able to answer that question for myself- but I can't. Also, the swimmer at the bottom of the image is female; she's wearing a bikini top. The two characters who swim in the book are both male. As I said, misleading.

Despite my beef with the cover, I liked the book. It was nice to rediscover Crutcher's style, though it did remind me that people who are offended by objectionable language should probably steer clear. If you can get past that, I think you'll enjoy the read.


In this full-length novel from Chris Crutcher, his first since the best-selling Deadline, the ultimate bully and the ultimate good guy tangle during Period 8.

Paul "the Bomb" Baum tells the truth. No matter what. It was something he learned at Sunday School. But telling the truth can cause problems, and not minor ones. And as Paulie discovers, finding the truth can be even more problematic. Period 8 is supposed to be that one period in high school where the truth can shine, a safe haven. Only what Paulie and Hannah (his ex-girlfriend, unfortunately) and his other classmates don't know is that the ultimate bully, the ultimate liar, is in their midst. 

Terrifying, thought-provoking, and original, this novel combines all the qualities of a great thriller with the controversy, ethics, and raw emotion of a classic Crutcher story.

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