Review: The Crash of Hennington, Patrick Ness

Today is Ada Leverson‘s birthday. Happy birthday, wonderful Sphinx! We will be friends in heaven!

Last week I commented on someone’s blog (I forget whose!) that I thought Patrick Ness should be made the king of something. And I still think that, but I also think that when he’s submitting materials for the consideration of the Academy (the King Deciding Academy, this would be), he shouldn’t necessarily send them The Crash of Hennington unless they expressly ask for it. There’s nothing inside of it that would make them change their minds about him — I was rather surprised to find that a book exists that includes sex slavery (or, well, sex indentured servitude?), and yet does not make me feel awkward and squirmy on the author’s behalf for the way they are handling gender stuff. That is pretty rare. The Handmaid’s Tale barely succeeded at that. (But The Handmaid’s Tale is a much better book.)

The Crash of Hennington is about the town of Hennington, where rhinoceroses rhoam free (I wrote “rhoam free” by accident, but I like it and I’m leaving it) in an Ionescan idyll, and the long-time mayor, Cora Larsson is prepared to retire and pass the mayor baton to her successor, single father Max. Meanwhile an old friend of hers has returned to town in the hopes that she will fall in love with him after all (although she is happily married). There is a corporate man who loves his righteous adoptive son and does not care for his creepy biological son who runs a sex slavery ring out of the, like, golf club. (Weirdly, that is not terribly different from what I imagine a golf club to be like.)

You know what Patrick Ness can do really, really well? Patrick Ness can write good parents. The level of emotional investment I had in Ben and Todd’s relationship from The Knife of Never Letting Go was — I don’t want to say unprecedented, because then I feel like I have to go back and inspect all the parents in every book ever, but pretty close to unprecedented. YA and kids’ books can’t have too much parents, because then how could the kids have adventures?, and grown-up books have all this parent-resentment lying around making matters complicated. But Ben was a really good parent, and in Crash, Max is an excellent parent. His conversations with his daughter Talon (don’t ask me, y’all) feel like real conversations a good parent would have with a ten-year-old.

Patrick Ness: King of Good Fictional Parents

(Not a very snappy title for Patrick Ness. If I were he, I’d put my name in the hat for King of Making You Cry without Being Overtly Sentimental, or maybe King of Not Acting Like It’s Gotta Be a Big Thing to Have a Gay Character, or King of Gut-Punchily Fast-Paced Dystopian Books. Because those are all super snappy.)

On the down side, The Crash of Hennington was extremely weird and rather creepy. For a pretty sex-positive book, it also implied lots of sordid creepy sex, and that puts me off because I’m slightly prudish. The plot, though fairly simple, went dancing about from character to character so fast that I sometimes a little lost track and got frustrated. I’m glad I was able to read the book, for I could certainly see some of the DNA that went into the Chaos Walking trilogy (which are apparently coming eventually to a theater near you), but I don’t think I’ll need to read it again.

Having said that, does anyone want my copy? I acquired it on PaperbackSwap, which seemed literally incredible to me, to the point that I said to myself, “I bet the person who has this book to give away is a book blogger who fell in love with the Chaos Walking books because of Ana, like we all, and then wanted to read Patrick Ness’s first novel.” And I was right. It was Chris. Small world, eh? So I feel like I should pass it along to the blogosphere. Leave a note in the comments if you want it. If more than one person asks for it, I’ll draw names from a hat.