Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: Period 8 by Chris Crutcher

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Period 8
Chris Crutcher
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication date: March 26th 2013
by HarperCollins

In this full-length novel from Chris Crutcher, his first since the best-selling Deadline, the ultimate bully and the ultimate good guy tangle during Period 8.

Paul “the Bomb” Baum tells the truth. No matter what. It was something he learned at Sunday School. But telling the truth can cause problems, and not minor ones. And as Paulie discovers, finding the truth can be even more problematic. Period 8 is supposed to be that one period in high school where the truth can shine, a safe haven. Only what Paulie and Hannah (his ex-girlfriend, unfortunately) and his other classmates don’t know is that the ultimate bully, the ultimate liar, is in their midst.

Terrifying, thought-provoking, and original, this novel combines all the qualities of a great thriller with the controversy, ethics, and raw emotion of a classic Crutcher story.

A copy was provided by HarperCollins Canada for review

What attracted me to this book initially was the mention of a bully. The blurb on the back of the book even says “A new novel about an ultimate bully and the ethics of love”. Sounds pretty good for any gritty contemporary fan, no? Except this “bully” is just a very weird guy with an obvious hidden agenda. The “ethics of love” part is correct, though. The whole book felt like an after-school-special-slash-Sunday-school-summon about love, telling the truth, and teenage hormones.

What is Period 8? An almost retired teacher opens his classroom to anyone who wants to come for a student discussion meeting-like lunch hour. During these meetings they talk about their problems and get advice about relationships. It is as unexciting as it sounds, to be honest. As a strong character oriented novel, it’s a big disappointment when all the character voices sound forced as well. For instance, the dialogue is full of teenage slang and swear words to make them sound genuine but instead it comes off as stereotypical and fake. Take this line for example:

“What’s going on, baby? You look shot at and missed, and shit at and hit.”

Similarly, all the boys call their girlfriend “honey” (or “your honey” when talking to others). Then add in a lot of Fuck, whassup, ain’t, y’all, and I remember even a couple instances of “momma”.

I personally don’t know of anyone who would talk like this. And if some do, I don’t want them in my books!

In addition to these characters we’ve got a teacher who’s way too buddy buddy with the teenagers to the point that felt odd to me. Then we have a girl who disappears–which at first I thought would be an exciting part of the plot, but instead she comes back, then disappears again, sends sinister texts, and then her part of the story gets brushed off as if no effort wanted to be spent on her anymore.

Bland characters: meet an even blander plot. Actually, it’s not even bland, it’s more like gibberish. This is definitely not helped when we have spastic POV changes that make you feel discombobulated. While it starts with the potential to become an engaging mystery, this tapers off into an all over the place plot that doesn’t appear to have any sort of logical flow at all. We have talk of cheating and relationships reminiscent of Dr. Phil, then the messed up disappearance mentioned above which also includes suspicious family behaviour and a crazy father who come up time and time again but are never explored. Furthermore, there’s this totally bizarre conspiracy happening that makes absolutely no sense, with a motive which is, to my knowledge, non existent. Suddenly there were hit men or the mafia or some angry politicians or something swarming the town trying to kill these kids. Yeah, I’ve no idea eitherโ€ฆ

Now for my favourite part, the MC calls 911 because his teacher is dying in a lake:

911 operator: “Is this a joke?”
“Ma’am, believe me, it’s no joke.”
“It’s nearly eleven, young man. You’re asking me to believe your teacher went swimming with you in the pitch dark and he’s still out there?”
“Some people were chasing us”
“What people?”
“Bad guys”
“I can trace this number, you know. It’s not funny to tie up this line. Hang up and I’ll forget this little prank.”
Paulie hears a click.

Yes, she hung up! 911 hung up on him! I don’t know about anywhere else, but around here, no matter what, even if you say it’s a prank, they have to send someone (yep–personal childhood experience >.<)! They even send someone for pocket dialing now!

I don’t know what else to tell you. This book is a mixed bag of some very strange substances that I wish to never come across again.

*Note that all the quotes in this review are from the uncorrected proof.*

1 Cold Espresso

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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36 Responses to “Review: Period 8 by Chris Crutcher”

  1. Kat Balcombe

    I started reading this one and then put it aside because it wasn’t working for me, and I can see that it probably wasn’t worth the time I spent reading even that little bit.

    I assume the author was trying to make it ‘street’ with the dialogue, but it just sounds pathetic rather than edgy.

    And yes, I’m pretty sure that 911 won’t hang up on anyone, even if it’s a loopy loop….

    Though I do quite like a bit of Dr Phil…..

  2. Megan K.

    Heh, I wasn’t even that interested in this book when I first saw it, so your review just guaranteed that I’ll be staying clear of this book. I don’t go well with forced teenage voices. First of all, it’s insulting. Second of all, not ALL teens talk like that! *huffs*

    And that except was probably the dumbest I’ve ever read. I mean, what kind of idiot at 911 would do that?

    Well. Thanks for the honest (and hilarious) review, Giselle! Definitely won’t be giving this one a go. O_O

  3. Kris Chen

    I’m in the process of reading this one. I was also drawn by the concept of the “ultimate bully,” but it’s been just as you’re describing. The characters are so flat, and Period 8 not at all interesting. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not this!

  4. Amy

    Oh, we pretty much felt the same about this one, though I actually rated it 2 because at one point I was kind of getting into the story… which was short lived. And seriously!! One time my friends brother called 9-1-1 as a joke and they sent the police over. To me this was not about a bully, but about a psychopath who hasn’t been taught any better.

  5. Nick

    Well, this sure does sound like a huge mess. Guys definitely talk like they seem to talk in this book. Honey? That’s just really weird. I’m going to stay very far away from this book and that whole 911 episode is hilarious. Sorry to hear that this disappointed you, Giselle, but you put across your thoughts beautifully!
    Great review!

  6. Annette

    Thought the same thing. When you call 911, they send someone. We’ve had people make mistakes because you have to dial “9” to get out, and then someone’s extension starts with 1, and before you know it, you’ve called 911! They won’t take no for an answer. Also thought this is NOT a bullying book — what the bad guy did was’t what you would think of as bullying. And, the ending was exciting, but confusing — I guess because, like you said, what was the motive?

    The slang didn’t bother me. I liked some of the characters, and while I agree the teacher’s relationship with the kids was unique, it didn’t bother me. Mixed feelings about this one. Still think some teens might like it. Great thoughts.

  7. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    The 911 handing up thing is absolutely ridiculous! I can’t believe someone thought that would be a good aspect to add into a book! I remember when I was little I picked up the phone and dialed 911 just to see what would happen when my parents were having a party and someone picked up and I hung up. Cops were at our door within 20 minutes. So unrealistic that she hung up and did nothing.

    I won’t be picking this one up.

  8. Ali Ginger-Read

    Wow, this just sounds like a mess. I have a hard time with authors who try to force some sort of “cool” factor in the teens they write by pushing silly terms and sayings. Drives me nuts every time. If you’re going to write teens maybe spend some time with them first.

    And that 911 call…what the hell? I think I’ll be passing on this one. ๐Ÿ™

  9. Renae M.

    Bahahahaha! This book sounds hilariously awful. That 911 call is terribleโ€”Iโ€™m pretty sure itโ€™s illegal for a dispatcher to hang up on someone, even if they think itโ€™s a prank call. And the dialogue you shared? I doubt even โ€œgangstersโ€ actually talk like that. SMH.

  10. Nazish Reads

    That’s unfortunate.
    I was never really interested in this book when I first heard about it. The cover and blurb didn’t seem interesting to me. Thanks for the warning, I’ll be sure to stay away from this book. I especially hate it when authors put stereotypical teenage slang and swear words in books *coughs* House of Night series *coughs* it really annoys especially because I was a teenager and graduated high school just two years ago, I never talked like that and neither did the people I hung out with and had classes with. I’m glad that many authors don’t do that, because that the whole novel for me, although in this book’s case, a lot of the other stuff are pretty bad too.
    Even though I’ve never called 911 in my whole life, I’m shocked about that whole 911 thing in the book as well.

    Great review, as always.

    -Nazish @ Nazish Reads

  11. Mel@Thedailyprophecy

    Hahaha. I’m happy that 911 takes things much more serious in real life. Imagine that.. But I agree with her, the situation is strange though!

    I wasn’t very interested in this book to begin with and now I can see that I’m not missing out on things. Thanks for the warning and I will definitely stay way. I don’t like it when authors are trying to sound “cool”. I’m not sure why they all expect that teenagers talk like that.. I didn’t have friends who talked like that anyway and I don’t want them to be in my book either!

    Great review Giselle! ๐Ÿ™‚


  12. Stellar

    I tried reading Deadline by Chris Crutcher, and it was a DNF for me! It was about a guy who has cancer, but he decides not to tell anyone that he’ll be dead in a few months. Other than that and a lot of what you said up there about the language, there was a TON about football. I am not a fan of football. Like, I can’t even watch the superbowl!

  13. Megan R

    Boo! Too bad this one was a fail for you.

    That 911 thing was weird. Maybe it’s different here in Canada, but 911 is serious business! They sent an ambulance to my work once because one of the girls accidentally dialed it (we have to dial 9 to get out, then 1 for long distance, so she must have just hit an extra 1), didn’t notice, then left to go to a meeting. Apparently after she left, they called her back and got no answer, so they sent the paramedics.

    So what I’m trying to say is 911 doesn’t hang up on people…

  14. Danny

    Oh wow.. that sounds like a major and epic fail!!!!!! I hate when things to not make sense like the 911 incident and are just added to add drama!
    Yep, not going to pick it up!

  15. Kathy Ann Coleman

    This one never had my interest, thank goodness.

    As for the 911 thing, my brother pocket dialed last weekend and, yeah, we had the whole 9 yards out here wanting to know that everyone was all right. Having something as important as a character’s potential death hing on something so commonplace and then ignoring reality when you aren’t writing in a genre where you can do that (this is contemp., right?) is a mark of two things: lazy research and bad writing. When in doubt, check stuff out. O.o

  16. Aman

    Oh no! The slang is horrible! “shot at and missed, and shit at and hit” Who says that ?!? And what does it even mean? I’m not even going to bother with one.
    The cover doesn’t say high school though, I looks more NA.
    Thanks for your honest review ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Cindy

    Wow, this sounds terrible. I would’ve flung this book across the room. Sorry this one was so bad. I hope the next one you read it better. Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts!

  18. Kelley @ Another Novel Read

    I read your review on Goodreads, but thought I’d come over here to comment. What a seriously disappointing book. Just the sample dialogue you’ve posted has completely turned me off. Interestingly, the author is the keynote speaker at a book convention I’m going to next month. I’m very curious to hear what he has to say (specifically to teens).

  19. Bookaholic 007

    Aw no! I thought this looked really good, but after reading your review, I don’t think it’s my cup of tea! And also, I don’t think I could get through a book that uses so much slang!

    Great review! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Lauren

    Wow, this book sounds like such a hot mess! That 911 call is ridiculous, and that shot at and missed line is cringeworthy. I would read this just for a laugh at how ridiculous it is, but your review is entertaining enough. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Thanks for helping me dodge this one, I almost considered reading this ARC.

  21. Anatea Oroz

    Oh wow! I did not expect this! I was actually excited to read this one, but even your quotes make me cringe. I actually admire you for finishing this book, I think I’d DNF it pretty soon. Thanks for the honest review Giselle!

  22. kelseysclutteredbookshelf

    I wasn’t planning on reading this book before, honestly I didn’t really know about it, but I’m definitely not reading it now, it doesn’t sound like something I would love. Thanks for the review!