The Alex Crow SPOILER-FREE Review
Once again blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith tells the story of 15-year-old Ariel, a refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel’s story of his summer at a boys’ camp for tech detox is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century. Oh, and there’s also a depressed bionic reincarnated crow.
I went into this book having NO idea what it was about, and I’m glad I did! I’ll admit it; this book is REALLY weird, and sometimes gross, but definitely worth the read! I originally thought this book was contemporary, and while it is mostly that, there are elements of historical fiction and sci-fi in there, as well. There are also multiple storylines we are following, and I loved how all of the stories connected. Smith was really good at making sure each of the storylines was distinct from one another. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, as I do feel it’s best to go into this story blind.
The character we follow along the most is Ariel, a boy who was a refugee and is now living in America. I thought we’d be following him around school, but instead we follow him around summer camp, where he is supposed to bond with his brother, Max. Both Max and Ariel, although being the same age, are very different. Max is very immature; he’s what you’d expect a typical teenage boy to be. And Ariel is very mature and quiet. Along with that, we also follow the story of Ariel after his village was attacked. Ariel tells this story as if he’s talking to Max. It’s crazy to see how Ariel went through in just a year. We see him develop through all these events he’s been through. Another storyline we follow is of a schizophrenic bomber who calls himself the melting man. The melting man is such an interesting character, as we see him battle the multiple voices in his head, one of which is the voice of Joseph Stalin. He was definitely an interesting character, yet he could be quite disturbing. The last storyline we follow is of Dr. Merrier, a doctor aboard the ship, The Alex Crow, that’s the one which got lost while trying to find the North Pole. He was probably my least favourite narrator, but interesting none the less. That’s basically the only word I can use to describe these characters: interesting.
Other than the fact that I found it to be pretty disturbing at times, there was only one thing that irked me, and I’m surprised I didn’t pick it up while I was reading this book. There’s only actually one important female character throughout this whole novel. There’s FOUR storylines, but only one important female character. I don’t really want to say anything about her, either, because then it would get spoilery. When I actually realized this, I had to lower my rating.
Overall, I’ve never read anything like this before, and that’s a good thing. Everything about this book is unique, from the story, to the characters, to the message. Other than the fact that there was only one main female character, I think this book hit the spot. I highly recommend this book! I also think I’m gonna pick up more of Andrew Smith’s work!