Sunday, July 22, 2018

Review: Chris Crutcher Does It Again with "Loser's Bracket"

Loser's Bracket by Chris Crutcher

Published 2018 by Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins)

250 pages, contemporary YA.

How do I love Chris Crutcher? Let me count the ways. There's his foul mouthed, big hearted FB rants about the state of the country and the role of old white guys like himself. There's the humor that slides into even his darkest books. There's the way his work is all rooted firmly in eastern Washington/northern Idaho, just like he is. There's the way he populates that territory with diversity, and is honest about how challenging it is to live in the rural west if you don't look and act like a cowboy. There's his willingness to tell it like it is instead of how it should be. There's the way every single one of his protagonists is a high school athlete--no superstar future pro, but a dedicated, talented, hardworking team member. 

There are books like this, that make you care so deeply about the characters, that show teenagers grappling with real life issues. Smart kids who are trying to grow up right, but don't have all the answers yet. Kids from crappy families who find their own mentors and support systems. As an adoptive mom, I was so in awe of the way he shows us all the reasons why Annie should cut her losses and count herself lucky to never see her bio family again, yet makes us understand why she's unwilling to do so. This is also one of those rare YA novels in which there's not a hint of romance, which is so refreshing. Annie has other shit to deal with, thank you very much. 

There's a certain over-the-top quality to this book that might drive some people nuts, but I trust Crutcher enough that I just went with it. His books are gritty (though it just now occurs to me this was the rare cuss-free Crutcher novel), but they're also somehow mythical in scope. 

I may have a tiny bit of a crush on Walter, and I'd like to kick Pop Howard in the teeth. Or possibly an easier-to-reach place.  And yes, I had to finish it by the pool. 

5/5 stars

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