Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Coming up on Friday, an interview with Andrew Klavan himself!  And we have a copy of Crazy Dangerous to give away!!  Read on for details . . .

Crazy Dangerous, by Andrew Klavan.  Thomas Nelson, 2012, 324 pages.  Age/interest level: 12-up.

Nobody can ever say Andrew Klavan doesn’t know how to write an opening:

You see that dead guy by the side of the road?  Yeah, the one lying in a pool of his own blood with his face all messed up and his clothes all torn and dirty.  That’s me . . .

The narrator, 15-year-old Sam Hopkins, hastens to explain that he’s not dead, though he sure could pass for it at the moment, and that side-of-the-road predicament is not actually the stupidest thing he ever did.  But by then the reader is hopelessly hooked and the pages will start turning almost as if they had a mind of their own.  The thriller genre is Klavan’s stock-in-trade, and for thrills and chills his latest YA novel does not disappoint.

Sam Hopkins is basically a nice kid going through an awkward stage: bored with his small town, lonely since his best friend moved away, and tongue-tied around girls, especially the beautiful girl he would most like to know.   Besides, he’s a Preacher’s Kid, and his mere presence seems to inflict niceness on his peers, as if they’re afraid to be themselves around him.  One guy who’s not afraid is Jeff Winger, the local thug, and his thug pals.  After a rough introduction, Sam becomes a kind of wingman to Winger, in the course of which he learns some slightly-illegal skills that will become useful later on.

The gang becomes too raw for Sam’s taste when they start hitting on a girl, particularly this girl: Jennifer Sales.  We meet Jennifer very early in the narrative, and it’s a harrowing introduction.  She is schizophrenic—most of the kids call it crazy—but perhaps a visionary also.  Her visions are disturbing, if not downright satanic.  As Sam gets to know her better he begins to wonder if she also has psychic powers, because it seems to him that some of the scenes she describes have a nasty way of coming true.  On her part, Jennifer senses a compassionate soul in Sam and latches on to him as her “magic friend.”  Both will need a friend, for she is seeing and hearing things that indicate a disaster of unimaginable proportions in the very near future.

I can’t say more than that, but the story speeds to a truly heart-pounding climax.  Sam is a character like Charlie West, of the Homelanders series, in that he’s catapulted into a desperate situation that boils down to one person—himself—risking his life in order to avert certain disaster.  Like Charlie, he is first equipped with some useful skills and an inspirational mantra: Do right. Fear nothing.  The latter will keep him going when many another teen would have lost hope–even though he fears plenty (with good reason), and isn’t always sure what’s right.

His main challenge is to believe Jennifer, and in this he’s like any other Christian: called to believe the unbelievable.  And act on it.  His pastor father isn’t a lot of help here; though a good and sincere man, he’s distracted by the impending death of a dear friend and is perhaps too inclined to rationality.  “The world is not a magical place, that’s all.  The things that happen are pretty predictable, and they can usually be explained in ordinary terms.”  Clearly opposed to Jennifer’s view, but after all, she’s sick.  Or is she all that sick?

One problem I had with the basic plot is that I didn’t quite believe the villain, whose villainy needed more justification.  However, I got a chance to ask the author about this, and you can read his reply on Friday.  I like the way that questions are raised and not conclusively answered, which after all is how good fiction works (asking, not answering).  They are good questions, such as

  • Is there some sense in which the world is a “magical” place?  How?
  • There are natural explanations for Jennifer’s visions—but might there be supernatural ones also?  Do you see other supernatural elements in the story?
  • If you knew someone like Jennifer, how to do you think you would respond to her?
  • Does this story shed any light on how God works in the world?
  •  Worldview/moral value: 5 (out of 5)
  • Literary value: 4 (out of 5)

And now for the contest.  All of Klavan’s YA books so far feature a desperate hero motivated by a choice saying.  This Sunday is Father’s Day.  What’s the connection, you ask?  Just this: in the comments section, tell us one inspirational or memorable or just extremely helpful helpful word you’ve received from your father.  Or grandfather.  Or any other significant father-figure.  Anyone can enter, from age 12 on up.  Winner to be announced Friday, so don’t delay!

See our review of Andrew Klavan’s Homelanders series here.  And for more book suggestions for teens, click the Book Review/YA tab and read on!


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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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  1. Laurie on June 12, 2012 at 8:51 am

    My Grandpa always said, “Every date is a possible mate, make it a Godly one!” Great advice.

  2. Jennifer on June 12, 2012 at 8:56 am

    My dad once told me, “Listen more, talk less.” I can’t count how many times I’ve recalled that phrase and practiced it.

    Thanks for the giveaway. I read Klavan’s Homelanders series and enjoyed it, so I know I’d like this one.

  3. Sarah on June 12, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Lover…my grandpa always called Grandma that, he gave firm love pats, and kissed Grandma regularly….it was a great model of real love and joy. He loved God just as passionately!

  4. Tim Sheppard on June 12, 2012 at 9:35 am

    My dad was leading our family and friends in a devotional while on vacation, and he talked about how one thing he has learned in all his life is that God is good. As a pastor, my dad has spoken and preached the Word to me countless times. For some reason, in this intimate setting, those few words meant a great deal to me. It was his heart speaking to mine and to the rest of my family.
    I hope I can pass that lesson on to my kids. God is good!

  5. Sherry on June 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

    My dad died a few years ago, and I miss him a lot. He “reached” more with actions than with words, telling me by his example to work hard, never give up, be faithful, and stand up for yourself. Any of those truisms could have been his legacy.

  6. Sarah on June 12, 2012 at 11:05 am

    My dad has shared many things with me through the years through words and deed. I am thankful for the Godly husband and father he is. One thing that has stuck with me are these words: “Keep sweet!” Life is filled with opportunities to either be loving and Christlike in our words and thoughts or to lash out at those around us either inwardly or outwardly. These are two good words that helped keep me “in check” in my growing up and also in my adult years.

  7. Shanna Gonzalez on June 13, 2012 at 9:02 am

    My father once said to me, “Shanna, you’re my hero, and I’m so proud of the way you’re raising my grandkids.” Meant the world to me.

  8. Rachel on June 13, 2012 at 9:31 am

    My father’s last name means “happy”, and my dad wore his name well. He was a godly man who taught us many wonderful life lessons by his example; however, the “words of wisdom” that I most remember from my father were more focused on reminding us not to take this life too seriously…to relax, enjoy people and do what you can to make them smile. Here are some of his favorite sayings: 1) “Wet birds never fly upside down at night.” 2) “Never pet a dog that’s on fire!” and 3) “The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient.” He’s been in heaven with Jesus for 9 years now, but he still his memory still has the ability to make me smile.

  9. Will Harper on June 13, 2012 at 9:43 am

    My dad always says “Kind words! Kind words!” whenever my brothers and I start to fight. It helps to stop the bickering right then. I’m a twelve year old fan of Klavan’s books.

  10. Madison on June 13, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    My Dad, a man of many witty and wise phrases, has many memorable quotes. Here are my favorites: “Dumb is an accident; stupid is a choice”, “The opposite of careful is careless”, and the one we hear when we’re not paying attention, “Hello wall, is the house still standing?” Never a dull conversation when Dad’s speaking!

  11. Emily on June 14, 2012 at 6:46 am

    My father always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, no matter how crazy. In college he gave me the motivation and support necessary to take a year off and hike the Appalachian Trail. He is a many of not many words but his tangible support of my dreams made them a reality.

  12. Betsy on June 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    My dad has given me much wisdom over the years–both in words and in example. He took me on a father-daughter date on my birthday every year for years. When I was in high school, I remember him telling me I could always “blame him” if I ever wanted to leave a party or event or situation and needed an excuse. He’s encouraged me over and over in my professional pursuits and has encouraged my husband and me in our marriage. (He’s also a pastor!)

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