Monday, 26 January 2015

REVIEW || The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Book Title: The Alex Crow
Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Electric Monkey, February 26th, 2015
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)
Format: e-ARC, 304 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
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’ve made no secret of my adoration of Andrew Smith’s books, so obviously when I heard he had not only the sequel to Winger coming out this year, but another book altogether – it went straight on my wishlist. That book was The Alex Crow, and like all of Smith’s books (that I’ve read so far) Smith balances the weird and the wonderful in such a genius way; if anything I think this is one of Smith’s best books yet.

The thing with The Alex Crow is that you don’t really know what you’ve got until you’ve, well, got it – its brilliantly perplexing without being frustrating. To describe the book without fear of spoilers, its like all these little instances woven together to create a story that you can’t stop reading. It is fair to say that Smith is in his element here, creating a somewhat cloaked storyline that transcends time and occasionally, sense – just as in Grasshopper Jungle, but in my opinion, it worked much better for this book, and I can’t put my finger on why.

Leonard’s chapters at the beginning of the book were so morbidly fascinating; of course it all makes sense, eventually – but until you get the connection this melting man, this man who is undoubtedly insane, and falling apart (erm, literally) holds your attention. The journal entries from a particular Doctor weren’t at all exciting or riveting to put it bluntly but even so, you still wanted to read on – Smith made you want to know what happened to The Alex Crow; who was the melting man, and what happened to the boy in the refrigerator?

I think something that makes Smith’s books unique (apart from his original concepts, obviously) - especially this one - is how he seems to state everything so matter of fact, yet it’s full to the brim with eloquent descriptions and bouts of realism. I’m not going to lie, what started out somewhat disconnected came together and there are bits that pack quite an emotional punch – they did make me recoil slightly in horror, but I have to give a hand to Smith because not only was this written incredibly well but the plot was so well executed.

I’ve mentioned Smith’s no nonsense approach before and that doesn’t change in this book, with everything it’s all real and unfaltering at that. Similarly, you don’t necessarily need to like Smith’s characters to enjoy them, if that makes any sense. In The Alex Crow there was no one character that I liked, but I enjoyed them all, I truly did, and I think that worked well for the type of story that Smith was trying to tell here. I did begin to wonder how Andrew was going to talk about this stay at a camp for an entire book and still make it interesting, of course my trepidation was wasted – Smith succeeded and went above and beyond my expectations.

Overall, The Alex Crow was a brilliant book that I think is basically about two strangers becoming brothers, and throw in a suicidal crow whilst you’re at it. I really did love it, and it’s definitely going on my favourites shelf. I will say that I think this book won’t work for some people, but it worked for me. My only one reservation about this book is that I wanted it to wow me, to stun me, and like I said it is brilliant, but there was just that slight lack of “woah…” which is why I had to bring the book down a star. Finally, I do urge you to pick this one up!

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds

1 comment:

  1. I love blended storylines and a "mystery' that doesn't unravel until the very end when everything comes together. I didn't like 100 Sideways Miles too much and I haven't read Smith's other books (they don't sound too appealing to me), but since I've heard about The Alex Crow, it sounds fascinating. I love all these different aspects that are going to somehow come together.


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