The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman

76158700Lynn: One of the frequently heard laments from our book club teens is, “Why doesn’t anyone ever write about NORMAL teens?”  Pete Hautman must have been listening because his new book, The Big Crunch (Scholastic 2011) is exactly that.  No one is a vampire or werewolf, no one is dead, struggling with a deadly disease or possessed of supernatural powers.  Instead we have a sweet, funny story of two nice, ordinary teens who fall in love with each other.  Wes has just broken up with his girlfriend because he found their relationship suffocating.  June is new to school and starting her sixth school in four years due to her father’s consulting jobs.  The teens literally bump heads in a convenience store and the story traces their up and down relationship through four seasons.  Hautman gets the feeling of first love just right – a cliche to everyone but the two experiencing those mind-numbing overwhelming emotions.  The story feels fresh and sweet and the moments of humor are perfectly placed.  Readers looking for fallen angels or kleenex-soaking tragedy should look elsewhere.  Readers looking for a story of the touching relationship of two nicely ordinary young people have come to just the right place.

Cindy: The title is from the name of a scientific theory about the universe shrinking until it collapses in on itself, The Big Crunch, at which time the big bang would happen again, reinventing the universe anew. June finds comfort in this, that “no matter how messed up the universe got, it would eventually have another chance to get it right.” It’s also an apt metaphor for June and Wes’s relationship. And, like the atoms careening into each other in space, these two are drawn to each other and the air is sucked out of the room when they are together. The connection is charged and it frightens them. They are attracted but repel each other for fear of the consequences. Besides the title, the cover art alludes to the nature of the relationship in the quadrants depicting the changing seasons and the changes in the relationship.

I read this several weeks ago and while skimming it again to write the blog I am reminded of all of the small reasons that I love this book. These teens could live down the block and probably do. It’s definitely a character and mood driven book rather than a plot driven whirlwind of action. Relationship takes center stage but it is portrayed in subtle and honest ways that will leave readers rooting for a happy ending and a promising beginning. First love is special and so is Hautman’s book.

Oh, and another thing I liked? The setting: Minnesota. While we were getting significant snow in April in Michigan I was reading about somewhere colder and snowier. I feel for them.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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