Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson

James Hoff is an angst-ridden high school student, whose environmental streak is a little radical for most. Well, it might be if he actually did anything for environmental causes instead of railing against them in his English compositions and his blog. Blake Nelson’s new book, Destroy All Cars, opens with a paper written by Hoff about cars and how they are “completely screwing over the planet.” The story is told through an epistolary format and reads quickly.

According to a recent interview with the author featured on the blog Abe Lincoln’s Hat, the lead character is loosely based on Nelson when he was in high school. Nelson went through a revolutionary phase, where he read The Communist Manifesto, drank espresso at the library, and crushed on artsy girls. However, there is more to Hoff’s character than a teen boy full of frustration. Like many teens James recognizes the flaws in the world and how adults tend to ignore them. There is a helplessness to Hoff because although he sees the problems he not necessarily in a place to provide solutions.

Instead of working to evoke change, James complains- and he is very good at it. In addition to complaining about cars and consumerism he also finds issue with his activist ex-girlfriend, Sadie, who he feels tries to evoke change by using the system. James thinks the system is broken, and offers little solution to solving problems. It’s not until Sadie gets him involved with one of her system-based do-gooder petition projects that he realizes there are proactive ways to work toward establishing environmental change. It also changes his perspective of Sadie, who seems pretty awesome.

Other books by Blake Nelson available at the Library: Girl, They Came from Below, Paranoid Park, Gender Blender, Prom Anonymous, Rock Star Superstar, and The New Rules of High School

If you like Destroy All Cars, you might want to pick up Jennifer Cowan’s first novel, Earthgirl. It is currently available in the New Books area of the library.

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