Kat's Reviews > Destroy All Cars

Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson
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Jul 19, 10

bookshelves: ya-fiction, punk-ya-fic, dude-lit
Read in July, 2010

James Hoff cuts the elbows out of his sweaters to make them look older, he's a nihilist, and he believes that cars will be the ultimate downfall of human society. But he's also a typical teenager, meaning that he just wants to get laid, he can't get over his first love, and he frets about his acne. The novel is written in ranting anti-consumerist anti-car essays on various assigned topics for English class, mixed in with James' personal journal, primarily chronicling his stages of grief over the loss of his first true love, Sadie. First he angrily rants against her hypocrisy, then he tries to go out and play the field a bit, and ultimately he decides he must have her back. Us older folks know how that almost always turns out.

I'm a big Blake Nelson fan through and through, especially of the delightfully-90's-alt&punk-classic "Girl" and the harrowing skate-drama "Paranoid Park". VOYA recently featured an article about Nelson, touting him as "one of the greatest YA authors you've probably never heard of" or something. I was excited to read his newest book because of the young anti-consumerist protagonist, with his "manifesto stylings" (as James' high school teacher scolds). Within the first few pages, I could see many of the bike-punk, anarcho-political, nihilistic friends and acquaintances I've had over the years reflected in the young James Hoff. However, in the end I felt a bit disappointed. Call me crazy (and my friends crazy, perhaps?), but I felt like Nelson could've taken it farther and spun so much more interesting material out of the whole young political and anti-consumerist angle. James' essays were idealistic, misanthropic, funny, angry, one-sided, etc. I've witnessed the way that "radical" individual politics like these can influence a young adult's life and their relationships in various ways, ranging from hypocritical to comical to extreme and beyond. In the end, they almost always alienate you completely, and you either sell out or drop out.

I guess I liked the way that James finally and coincidentally realized in the last few pages that both his festering nihilism and his unhealthy fixation on his ex were keeping him from moving forward in life. And he didn't even have to sell out completely in the end, which is a plus, especially for the young folks reading that haven't yet become jaded and cynical with the passing of time. But in the end, it was really just a novel about a dude getting over his girlfriend. So hey, all you YA authors out there in tune with anarchist bike punk youth subculture...Write a book about it, please. It is still a relatively untapped gold mine of good YA material. Trust me, I know. If I could write, I'd Do-It-my damn self. :)
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