Chris Crutcher writes controversial books. Some folks don't like the language he uses, though he will argue that he only uses language that teens themselves use. Some folks don't like the issues he addresses, and he will respond that the issues he addresses are issues that teens face, and that they need ways to explore those issues.
There are similarities to many of Crutcher's books. Most take place in small towns in the Northwestern part of the US. Many of his characters use sports to cope with some aspect of their lives. Most of the issues Crutcher talks about don't have clear-cut right or wrong answers, which is often the source of the conflict in the books.
Crutcher's characters always seem real to me, and Eddie from The Sledding Hill enchanted me from the start. His friend Billy explains:
In fifth grade, when my dad discovered Eddie scored sixty-five on his IQ test, he asked Eddie what happened, because Dad knew that couldn't be right. "I was answering the questions," Eddie said, "and then I started seeing what a neat pattern I was making filling in those little ovals, and before I knew it I was making neater and neater patterns."
The Sledding Hill is about Eddie, and his learning to cope after suffering two great losses in a short period of time. One of the things he finds that helps him is the book Warren Peece that his English class is reading. The book (which doesn't really exist) is written by Chris Crutcher, the controversial author. Surprise - some folks object to the book, and Eddie's minister tries to get it removed from the curriculum. Suddenly, Eddie is in the middle of another mess, and trying to find his way out. Crutcher even makes a guest appearance at the school board hearing.
This wasn't my favorite book by Crutcher, but I laughed out loud at parts of it, and enjoyed meeting Eddie and his friends. If my kids weren't so busy with schoolwork right now, I'd make them read it, but it will have to wait for summer vacation. Oh, what IS my favorite Crutcher book? Ummm, Whale Talk. No, The Crazy Horse Electric Game. Or maybe Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes... It's hard to pick just one...