Pete Hautman is one of my favorite writers. He won my heart with GODLESS, fed my curiosity with HOW TO STEAL A CAR, and satisfied me once again with THE BIG CRUNCH.
I generally dislike books about destiny. I wasn’t even a big fan of Slumdog Millionaire. Partly this is because I don’t believe in destiny. I believe in decisions. And when a book is about destiny, a character cannot make meaningful decisions. Why would you write a book where a character isn’t responsible for his or her outcomes? Where is the courage and hope in that?
So, what I like about THE BIG CRUNCH is that it so sciency! I’m not even a lover of science, but I’m married to someone who is. And what I learned by watching his love of science is that its truly a wonder to behold. Pete Hautman gets this. I wish he could be friends with my husband. Hautman goes so far as to separate what Wes and June feel for one another (both so closely intertwined they together are the main character) are feelings in their hearts, a place separate from the brain that controls decisions. A feeling could be a thing that remains forever: it’s the closest Hautman will get to brushing against destiny. Because after all, our brains can make all kinds of strange decisions about that feeling in our hearts. And for me, I happily brushed against this notion. It captured the feeling of being in love while acknowledging the reason people also have. The flap jacket describes the book thus: “June and Wes do not ‘meet cute.’ They do not fall in love at first sight. They do not swoon with scorching desire. They do not believe that they re instant soul mates destined to be together forever.” But it is a love story. One of my favorites so far. Because how do you navigate knowing what decision is best when your heart feels a consistent love? This is hard enough for an adult to screw with.
And while I’m talking about adults, I want to add that Hautman does a particularly good job of keeping teens young. So often teens in books seem like adults–they have the confidence, bodies, and wit of an adult with the body language and attitude of a teen. Like in movies and TV they cast the twenty-two year old as a sixteen year old. You know what I mean. It’s like people write their books that way too! When was the last time you saw a teen with braces? Mikey from The Goonies did. Why? Cause he was actually a teenager (14) when the movie was filmed. When I read Hautman’s books, I feel like I’m genuinely in a teenager’s life. I wish that wasn’t quite so rare. Yet, I still get to think about the big issues. Young adult literature as a category shouldn’t be a reading level. Young adult books are books from a teen perspective.