Tag Archives: Chris Crutcher

Chinese Handcuffs

by Chris Crutcher, 1989

Classification:  YA Fiction

Genre:  Realistic/Issues

Age Level:  14+

Subjects:  Suicide, high school sports, friendship, family

Reader’s Annotation:  Dillon Hemingway’s world is changed forever when he witnesses his brother’s suicide.

Main Characters:  Dillon Hemingway, a triathlete who aspires to be an Ironman
Preston Hemingway, Dillon’s brother who has committed suicide
Stacy Ryder, Preston’s girlfriend, friend of Dillon’s
Caulder Hemingway, Dillon & Preston’s father
Jen Lawless (aka J. Maddy), star basketball player, friend of Dillon’s
T.B. Martin, Jen’s stepfather
Coach Kathy Sherman, women’s basketball coach, teacher & mentor to Dillon

Summary:  Only a short while ago, Dillon Hemingway was dreaming of competing in a triathlon.  Now, in the aftermath of his brother’s suicide, Dillon is coping with his own grief and confusion, his parents’ separation, and his friends’ secrets.  Dillon begins writing letters to his brother Preston as a way of sorting out his feelings and he relies on the steady support of Coach Kathy Sherman.  As more and more secrets are revealed, Dillon is faced with difficult decisions involving safety, trust and the law.  Between a sinister biker gang and an unscrupulous lawyer, Dillon must think clearly and act fast to help those he cares about.

Controversial content:  violence, sexual abuse, killing of an animal, gang rape

Also by Chris Crutcher:  The Crazy Horse Electric Game, Running Loose, Staying Fat for Sarah Brynes, Stotan!

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The Crazy Horse Electric Game

by Chris Crutcher, 1987

Classification:  YA Fiction

Genre:  Realistic/Issues

Age Level:  14+

Subjects:  accident & aftermath, disappointment, friendship, family

Reader’s annotation:  When a near-drowning leaves him crippled, star athlete Willie Weaver is forced to confront a life much different from the one he thought he was supposed to live.

Main characters:  Willie Weaver—a gifted athlete and the formidable pitcher on his town’s baseball team
Big Will—Willie’s father who is deeply proud of his athletic son and who has always related to Willie through sports
Sandy Weaver—Willie’s mother who blames herself for the loss of baby Missy to SIDS
Johnny Rivers—Willie’s best friend who enjoys telling longwinded jokes that end in cheesy puns
Jenny Blackburn—Willie’s longtime best friend and new girlfriend, a star athlete in her own right who particularly excels in basketball

Summary: A near-drowning leaves star athlete Willie Weaver damaged, a devastating blow for the Weaver family who never healed from the death of baby Missy.  Willie is bewildered by his sudden handicap.  With his best friend/girlfriend drifting away and his father increasingly frustrated, Willie senses the need for a new environment in which he can sort out his new identity.  He boards a bus and ends up in Oakland where he finds an unlikely savior in a pimp named Lacey who sets Willie up at a school offering “One More Last Chance.” Can Willie, and the family and friends he’s left behind, ever recover from the tragedy?

Controversial Content: Racism

Also by Chris Crutcher:  Running Loose, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Stotan!

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Stotan!

by Chris Crutcher, 1986

Classification:  YA Fiction

Genre:  Realistic/Issues

Age Level:  14+

Subjects:  Friendship, teams, high school

Reader’s annotation:  Four high school swimmers volunteer for a grueling week of training in preparation for their final season as a team.

Main characters:  Walter Dupree (narrator), has older parents who are not much involved in his life
Nortie Wheeler, works with young kids at a daycare
Jeff Hawkins, formerly with the Marine reserves
Lionel “Lion” Serbousek, an orphan who lives alone in a run-down apartment
Max Il Song, swim coach, Korean
Elaine, also a swimmer, friend of the team
Devnee, Walker’s girlfriend
Marty O’Brian, a schoolmate who promotes a local newsletter called “Aryan Press”
Gail Stevens, school administrator

Summary:  Frost High School swimming coach Max Il Song devises a challenge for his four man team:  Stotan Week, in which each athlete will strive to become a cross between a Stoic and a Spartan.  Together, best friends and teammates Walker, Nortie, Jeff and Lion push themselves past their known limits and find not only a higher level of athletic performance but also a deeper understanding of life and friendship.

Controversial content:  Racism, violence, child abuse.

Also by Chris Crutcher:  Running Loose, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

 

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Running Loose

by Chris Crutcher, 1983

Classification:  YA Fiction

Genre:  Realistic/Issues

Age Level:  14+

Subjects:  Sportsmanship, love, death and friendship

Reader’s annotation:  In this coming of age story set in a small Idaho town, Louie Banks learns how lives are set by fleeting moments and seemingly simple decisions.

Main characters: Louie Banks, a football player

Carter, another football player, Louie’s best friend & role model

Coach Lednecky, the football coach who believes in winning no matter the cost

Boomer Cowans, a fellow football player who has no problem playing dirty

Becky Sanders, Louie’s long-time crush

Summary: Louie is a student athlete at Trout High School, a small town school with a student body of less than 125 students.  He is devoted to football until Coach Lednecky asks the team to carry out an illegal move that will injure Washington, the rival’s team best player who happens to be African American.  When Boomer follows through with the coach’s orders, Louie doesn’t hesitate to unmask Coach Lednecky, challenging the older man’s leadership and hinting at the deeper issue of racism.  But Louie’s concerns fall on deaf ears and win him no love with the rest of the team.  Convinced he did the right thing, Louie accepts the consequences of his actions.  In fact, when he’s kicked off the team, Louie manages just fine without football because he has Becky, a beautiful cheerleader and loyal friend, and a part-time job cleaning up at the Buckhorn, a local bar.  But when Louie’s life takes a tragic turn he must confront the reality that his actions have effects that he could never anticipate.

Controversial content: Underage drinking, sexuality, verbal and physical violence, strong language

Also by Chris Crutcher:  Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

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Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

by Chris Crutcher, 1993

Classification:  YA Fiction

Genre: Realistic/Issues

Age Level: 13+

Subjects:  Competition/High school sports, friendship, high school, freedom of speech/expression

Reader’s Annotation:  When his best friend suddenly stops speaking, Eric “Moby” Calhoune knows something terrible is going on and he is determined to help her through it.

Main characters:    Eric Calhoune, narrator, earned the nickname “Moby” because prior to joining the swim team he was overweight
Sarah Byrnes, terribly scarred from a childhood accident, Eric’s best friend, suddenly stops speaking and is a patient at the hospital
Sandy Calhoune, Eric’s mother who works as a writer for the local newspaper
Carver Middleton, Sandy’s boyfriend
Virgil Byrnes, Sarah’s sinister, overbearing father
Mr. Mautz, school administrator
Ms. Lemry, English teacher and swim coach
Dale Thornton, middle school bully with whom Sarah Byrnes forged a tentative friendship
Steve Ellerby, a fellow swimmer and friend of Eric’s, father is a preacher
Mark Brittan, a swimmer and model student, Christian
Jody Mueller, Mark’s girlfriend who breaks things off to pursue Eric

Summary:  Sarah Byrnes refuses to speak but her best friend Eric Calhoune still knows how to communicate with her.  To get to the bottom of the mystery that has become his friend, Eric seeks the insight of former school bully Dale Thornton and discovers a shocking secret.  Meanwhile, during Ms. Lemry’s Contemporary American Thought class, yet more secrets are uncovered, this time about Eric’s swimming rival, the seemingly perfect Mark Brittan.  As the revelations pile up, the time to take action draws near, but with an unsympathetic school administrator and two different but equally determined fathers standing in the way, can anyone get the help they need?

Controversial content:  Abortion, suicide, child abuse, fundamentalism

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Chris Crutcher

After years of reading the works of dead people (both literally and figuratively—Barthes’ “The Death of the Author,” anyone?), I finally made the incredible discovery that a living author who is accessible to readers can contribute an amazing new dimension to the dialogue about a story, offering a layered experience of reading and understanding.  When I was coordinating a research project on the works of Chris Crutcher last semester, I was thrilled to correspond with him about his work as a therapist and an author and to get his take on recent incidents of “bullycide.”

Next week—January 24-28, 2011—is No Name Calling Week and because Chris Crutcher’s books usually deal with themes of bullying and harassment, I am going to post summaries of some of his books over the next several weeks.

Some info about the author:

Crutcher has been writing for young adults for three decades and is therefore a fixture in the genre of the young adult problem novel.  His writing is witty and sarcastic and particularly appealing to the reluctant adolescent male reader.  He incorporates sports into every one of his stories, delving deeply into the mind of the athlete, and within the entire body of his work, Crutcher features every major high school sport.

Crutcher’s books are frequently challenged or banned primarily for their religious perspective, homosexual content, sexual content, offensive language, or suicide.  Crutcher calls these “human things” and he continually expresses his concern about the ways in which these human things are avoided in conversations with young people.  He writes these elements into his books for the purposes of opening up dialogue.   He believes that talking about stories, talking about a character’s issues is a great way to start conversations with young people.

This video in which Crutcher talks about censorship reveals why he is such an articulate advocate for the the freedom to read.

What is truly awesome about Crutcher is the way that he personally gets involved when his books are challenged.  He writes letters, works with teachers, and even makes personal appearances.  On his own website, Crutcher provides information about challenges to his books as well as his responses.

This article discusses the most recent challenge concerning Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes.  I’ll put that title up first.  In the meantime, check out this short booklist for other titles that deal with bullying.

 

 

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