Review: Crash Into Me
Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: they all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, the four teens make a deadly pact: they will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides…and at their final destination, they will all end their lives. As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living–or if there’s no turning back.–From Goodreads
I was disturbingly excited when I read the synopsis for Albert Borris’ Crash into Me. The premise was unusual and morbid enough that I was sure I would love it. Most people who know me have come to terms with the fact that I am intellectually fascinated by the topic of suicide, which results in them watching more dark and depressing movies than the average individual. In fact, my first blog was called November of the Soul and dealt with suicide and self-injury research. As it turns out, nobody is really interested in reading about that.
Albert Camus said, “There is but one serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” Suicide deals with the ultimate question: To be or not to be? So, as I said, I was excited by the idea behind Borris’ book, and I wanted to love it, but my feelings while reading it were only lukewarm.
The story was well-written, and I enjoyed the top 10 lists and IM conversations inserted intermittently. However, some of the suicide research felt a little too forced. Despite Owen’s nickname of “Professor,” his recitations of facts about suicide do not sound authentic. In the IM conversations, though, Jin-Ae captures the essence of this book, describing snakes trapped in their own skin: “The only way that kind of snake can survive is to crash itself against the rocks, like not care if it lives anymore. Then it can live. But it has to flail around so bad, smash itself up.” Like the snakes, Owen, Jin-Ae, Audrey, and Frank can only survive by giving up on life and flailing around on a cross-country road trip, intent on dying at the end.
Borris realistically captures the ambivalence of suicidal ideation, portraying teens who simultaneously want to escape their problems through death, but also imagine what their futures might look like. Even so, I had a hard time digging into this book right away. The beginning couldn’t quite grab my attention, requiring frequent breaks, but my reading speed picked up as I got to know the characters better toward the end. There’s not much element of surprise, but Owen does reveal an interesting family secret that is worth sticking around for until the last few pages.
If you are interested in another story about teen suicide, I would also recommend Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. You might also check out Wristcutters – A Love Story, an unusual movie with similar themes, differing primarily in that the characters on this road trip have already committed suicide.