Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Big Crunch

The Colorado Teen Literature Conference takes place on April 2, 2011. In addition to preparing a workshop I'm presenting called "Connecting with Young Adult Literature - Using Essential Questions in the Classroom," I have also been reading books by Pete Hautman, who is a guest author. I loved No Limit (2005)and its sequel All In (2007), his poker series about a teenage boy who is a Texas Hole 'Em whiz kid. The main character Denn Doyle is sympathetic and well drawn, and I learned a lot about poker. Reading Pete's blog, I frequently laugh out loud and am looking forward to seeing him in person. His latest book The Big Crunch, which he characterizes as a vampire-free tale of two teens who fall in love, is another winner.

The Big Crunch chronicles a year-long romance between Wes and June, two ordinary teenage lovers, who struggle to maintain their relationship after June moves away. June has gone to 6 high schools in 4 years, so when she arrives in Minnesota she decides to avoid getting attached to anyone, because she knows her consultant dad will move them again soon. Then she literally runs into Wes at a convenience store, and a black eye later, they are in love. The story alternates between the two teens' point of view. June says their relationship was inevitable. "Some things just had to happen, like two trains heading toward each other on the same track. It wasn't like you could swerve to avoid the collision. It wasn't like you could stop." Wes, who has just extricated himself from a two year relationship, does not wanted to get involved with June but he can't help himself. When his best friend Jerry starts dating June, Wes finds himself jealous and picking fights with him. The Big Crunch, a scientific theory that suggests the universe will stop expanding one day and start to contract, is a great metaphor for Wes and June's developing relationship. After a series of encounters that are filled with sexual tension, they try to avoid each other but find their mutual attraction has "all the force of a black hole." They give into their feelings only to find that June's father is moving the family to Omaha.

June's parents usually demand that she cut all ties when they move, to the point of erasing her former friends' phone numbers from her cell phone. Wes and June surreptitiously try to maintain their relationship with texts and calls, but inevitably it becomes difficult. Wes, however, will not give up on their relationship and "borrows" a friend's parents' car to go see her. The few hours they spend together, before the police show up at her door, is enough to refuel their passion. What the two teens do to keep their love alive is heart warming. Hautman does a great job of creating characters we care about with dialogue that is clever and filled with humor. The book follows their relationship through the four seasons and I predict you will want to follow it, too.

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