Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Destroy All Cars


Destroy All Cars
by Blake Nelson
Scholastic, 2009
218 pages

Move over, Holden Caulfield. There's a new misanthrope in town, and his name is James Hoff, the teen protagonist in Nelson's latest YA novel. James is a dark soul who is fed up with consumerism, mindlessness, abuse of the planet by humans, and humans, in general. He thinks most Americans feel that "mental accuracy is a bad thing," and writes rants in his journal that his English teacher compares to "manifesto stylings." He thinks the answer to saving the planet is to destroy all cars. James is a thoughtful character who has difficulty fitting in with his peers--peers who are typical flat characters interested in high school gossip, clothes, who just broke up, who is back together, who is hooking up, who is in trouble, and other vapid conversations. Also troubling James is his parents' complete lack of passion for anything that matters to him. They keep pushing him to pick a college, and he keeps avoiding the topic. He has no plans for post-high school. He is just trying to make it through his junior year.

The only person James connects with is a high school activist, Sadie Kinnell, who tries to save the planet by starting in her neighborhood with a petition to save a pond from greedy developers. James and Sadie have a love-hate relationship, and do end up having sex, but they both are sorry afterwards. James feels regret and is wistful to be the "old" him before the encounter. Readers will feel empathy for James, a typical teen who is confused, lost, and searching for answers to easy questions like: where do I want to go to college? and hard questions like: why do people have to have kids?

Grades 8-high school. Some language, sex, though not graphic. Recommended for high school collections.

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