Monday, September 26, 2011

The Big Crunch

The cover of Pete Hautman's The Big Crunch contains illustrated vignettes of a young couple's relationship across four seasons. The cover art seems somewhat symbolic to me right now, as I first read this book when snow covered the ground and have continued reflecting on it through spring and summer. Now that autumn has arrived, I've circled through all four seasons with this title and am still thinking about it. That "staying power" is a good sign and convinces me even more that this unique novel should be a frontrunner for the Printz Award.

Yet I have to admit I'm not hearing much buzz about The Big Crunch and I wonder why. Over the last few years, Pete Hautman has built a great reputation as a young adult author, with Godless winning the National Book Award. He's yet to be noticed by the Printz committee. Isn't it about time?

Wes is a regular guy from an average Minnesota family. June has spent her life moving from town to town as her father constantly changes jobs. They meet on the first day of junior year and their relationship -- which begins cautiously and develops into a romance of great intensity. The narrative style is unconventional. A series of brief, often understated vignettes, alternate between the perspectives of each teenager, highlighting their sometimes shared, sometimes differing, perspectives on young love: the physicality, the confusion, the euphoria, and even the occasional moments of boredom (“You’re playing a computer game while I’m talking to you?”)

Wes and June’s relationship weathers a mid-book move to another town three hundred and fifty miles away, but even while the teens dream about running away to Paris, they are refreshingly honest in their acceptance that life will continue to change and that their romance may not last forever. It’s rare to discover a love story for teens this elemental in its telling, this balanced in its characterizations of both the boy and the girl, and this honest its emotion. THE BIG CRUNCH is Pete Hautman's best book yet and has the feel of a classic.

Printz-worthy: Definitely!

What do YOU think?


  1. I agree. I nominated this for the Cybils award for YA fiction. It's a refreshingly rich, down-to-earth relationship story.

  2. Oh I truly adored this book! So simple, yet so real. The dynamics of her relationship with her parents, and his with his parents and friends, and their's so honest, timid, and realistic! Ugh, I LOVED it!

  3. I just ordered this based on your thoughtful write-up. BTW, this blog stands out to me for the quality of reviews in a world of plot synopsis followed by one sentence of opinion. Great job. I should add that the opening paragraph of your review of David Levithan's new book really hit home with me, and I share those observations and concerns. It's disheartening to look at the YA wall in most book stores.

    Anyway, my point: Great, great blog. Thank you.