Chris's Reviews > 12 Things to Do Before You Crash and Burn

12 Things to Do Before You Crash and Burn by James Proimos
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Jul 02, 12

bookshelves: adventure, life, voice, ya, not-graphic, light

What a brilliantly fun little diversion.

It definitely requires a suspension of disbelief, because the string of coincidences and interpersonal reactions that are the book's plot aren't at all realistic, but that's hardly the point. The subtle emotional subtext that's never stated is real and believable, and that's what makes the book work.

When I said "little diversion," I wasn't kidding; this took me 30 to 45 minutes to read and I'm not a particularly fast reader. I don't think I've ever described a writer as "punchy," but it seems that might be the right word for Proimos's writing in this book. Short sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. Episodic vignettes, just little scenes and chunks that make up a whole when put together, but no time wasted on transitions or descriptions or exposition.

Just enough self-aware wit to the writing to inject humor without overdoing it: Next thing I knew a huge canine with huge canines was chasing me; and, While you were reading that last sentence the dogs have closed in.

So, say your dad was a beloved celebrity, a self-help guru and talk show host who had made a positive difference in thousands and thousands of lives. When he dies, everyone wants to celebrate his life and all the good he did for them. Except he was an absolute jerk to everyone who really knew him, his family and friends and "loved ones." All the admiration might leave a bad taste in your mouth and leave you feeling a bit bitter.

They flash a picture of my dad on the screen. In the shot his arm is around me. It was taken a couple of years ago when he did a show about fathers and sons. The media have been using that photo in more than a few stories they have done on my dad's death. It makes him look like he was some kind of father of the year or something. Like we actually had a relationship. Makes my skin crawl. The camera pushes in tight on his smiling face.

"Ass!"

We say it simultaneously, Uncle Anthony and I.

We do have something in common, it turns out.


After the funeral, his mom ships Hercules off to stay with his uncle for the last two weeks of summer. His uncle, knowing Hercules will be bored all day while he is at work, gives Hercules a list to keep him occupied:

Day One: Choose a mission.
Day Two: Find the best pizza joint in town.
Day Three: Clean out the garage.
Day Four: Muck the stalls at Riverbend Farm.
Day Five: Read a complete book under a tree.
Day Six: Go to a place of worship and pray.
Day Seven: Go on seven job interviews.
Day Eight: Spend the day thinking big thoughts. Write them down.
Day Nine: Eat a meal with a stranger.
Day Ten: Make me something.
Day Eleven: Recite a poem at Blake's Coffee Shop Midnight Poetry Reading.
Day Twelve: Complete your mission.


The results are surprising, hilarious, and satisfying.
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