Crunch, by Leslie Connor; HarperCollins:
New York, 2010; $16.99
A young boy named Dewey Mariss is running his dad’s bike shop during his parents’ anniversary trip. Unfortunately, the trip is right in the middle of an oil shortage. Just as Dewey’s parents are returning, the oil shortage heads into the extreme and leaves them with no gas. Dewey’s got an enormous responsibility to handle, and he’s not about to let it slip away. Due to the oil shortage, everyone wants a bike and no one expects lower than their standards. Pretty soon things start to get hairy, and Dewey’s five-year-old brother and sister have their bikes stolen. Luckily, he’s got his thirteen-year-old brother and Robert Deal (a guy he helped on the highway) as employees. Then bike parts get stolen, and Dewey starts to worry. Will he be able to manage? The person he’s suspecting is his neighbor, Mr. Spivey, who has stolen a couple of eggs and berries from the Mariss farm, so why not steal bike parts? After catching the thief by painting him blue, Dewey thinks his troubles are over. But when his dinky little shop gets tons of customers, his sister decides to close and not take in any more repairs. Also, he learns that his father was seriously injured—just as his parents were starting to shove off! Now he gets worried. He promised to manage the shop and now it’s fallen apart. He’s going to need a brilliant plan to survive.
I started reading the book as an environmentalist. Though my position on the environment hasn’t changed thanks to the book, I think it goes hand-in-hand with my views of a (somewhat) utopian world in which all cars are electric and everyone rides a bike. Since there’s barely enough oil to go around, everyone is either walking or biking to work and home. This means no carbon emissions! However, the book does seem to suggest that life will get better when gasoline is back. I personally disagree with this view, no matter how much of it is legitimate. Really, this book shows how life can be good even without much oil, but that isn’t what it focuses on. Instead, the book’s central theme is survival. I can definitely connect to the “ain’t nobody here but us kids” style of the book, since I have been home alone several times. Fortunately, I have had a cell phone on all but one of those occasions. And communicating over the phone is something that I can also connect to, since Dewey and his siblings communicate with their parents in the same manner I do.
Now, here’s how I imagine the way you would feel when reading Crunch. At the beginning, you would think “Wow, that is one big responsibility for a couple of kids,” and when the bikes get stolen, I picture you saying “Now who would do such a thing?! The nerve!” When Robert Deal joins the shop, “Phew! What a relief!” may be universal, as well as you whispering “Yikes! Who’s the thief?” when bike parts get stolen. While Dewey leaves the thief feeling blue, mouthing out “I’m glad that’s over!” will be a pushover. And it’s no surprise that you’ll be muttering “Gee, what’s he going to do?” as Dewey’s sister closes the shop. Fortunately, it’s another happy ending. Hooray!
I think Crunch is a great book and will capture your attention. You certainly will enjoy it. If I had to give it a rating, I would say it is one of my favorites and is definitely worth reading.