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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Crabbe* by William Bell - young adult book review

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by William Bell
Grades 7-9 192 pages Fitzhenry & Whiteside July 2006 Paperback    

Crabbe is the journal of Franklin Crabbe, an unhappy teenager who, right before his final exams, decided to run away and leave not a trace. It takes him some time to plan it, but he gets away with it, packing up his things and driving away from his life as a spoiled, "semi-alcoholic" teenager whose every move has been planned out for him. He drives away from his privileged life and into one in the wilderness based on survival - and freedom.

It turns out, though, that Crabbe is (unsurprisingly) unprepared for life on his own in the wilderness. Soon after he sets out, he gets most of his things wet, for example, making things like matches useless. He doesn't know how to steer a canoe, or avoid bears, or any of it. Crabbe is definitely a city kid. When he goes over a waterfall, though, things start to look up. Mary, a beautiful woman who came into the bush much more well-prepared, finds Crabbe. She has her own reasons to hide, and she's not going back, so she's lonely. She invites Crabbe to stay with her, and he gladly accepts the invitation.He learns a lot, and not just about survival in the wilderness (though he learns plenty of that, too)

The story starts at the end, with Crabbe in a hospital with two fingers cut off of one hand and daily appointments with a shrink. How he gets there from his life in the wild with Mary is the story his journal tells.

William Bell's Crabbe is a survival story that will hook even readers who think they don't like survival stories. It is, above all, not a story about living in the wilderness but a story about a boy who feels trapped by his life as one of the wealthy, privileged people in society, the life where not one move he makes is his own choice, the life that drives him to drink.

Crabbe is a very well-written novel, and William Bell succeeds in grabbing the attention of the reader (and keeping it). The way the story starts at the end helps in that regard; the reader really wants to know how Crabbe got where he is, writing that journal with two fingers missing and seeing a shrink. It's not a place that, when you start the book, you'd expect him to end up, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clearer.

The only area of this story that is lacking is characterization of secondary characters. While Crabbe seems quite real, the minor characters don't really feel as three-dimensional as they should. Still, that is a minor flaw. Other than that, Crabbe certainly stands out in the world of young adult literature.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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