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The Alex Crow

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Andrew Smith is the Kurt Vonnegut of YA . . . [Smith’s novels] are the freshest, richest, and weirdest books to hit the YA world in years.” —Entertainment Weekly
Skillfully blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, award-winning  Grasshopper Jungle  author Andrew Smith chronicles the story of Ariel, a refugee who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel's story is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century . . . and a depressed, bionic reincarnated crow.

317 pages, Hardcover

First published February 26, 2015

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About the author

Andrew Smith

19 books1,697 followers
Andrew Smith is the author of Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, The Alex Crow, 100 Sideways Miles, and Rabbit & Robot, among others. Exile from Eden: Or, After the Hole, the long-awaited sequel to Grasshopper Jungle, is coming from Simon & Schuster on September 24, 2019.

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5 stars
563 (26%)
4 stars
813 (38%)
3 stars
497 (23%)
2 stars
147 (7%)
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66 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 519 reviews
Profile Image for Jules Hucke.
157 reviews2 followers
Want to read
June 20, 2014
Andrew Smith, I'd read your goddamned grocery lists if they were publicly available. LOVE.
Profile Image for Shaun Hutchinson.
Author 25 books4,599 followers
March 18, 2015
Christ. What a book. It's hard not to talk about The Alex Crow without thinking about the conversations that have been happening lately about whether or not Smith's books are sexist or if they do a disservice to women or if the female characters in his books are poorly written. When people were defending Andrew Smith, one of the things most often said was that he writes books for teenage boys. I actually disagree. I think Andrew Smith writes books about teenage boys.

There is exactly 1 female character in The Alex Crow. Actually, there are 4, but only 1 that is central to the plot. Looking at it from just that perspective, you might be inclined to agree that Smith has a problem with female characters in his books. But the funny thing is that while some readers might be turned off by the overwhelming testosterone or the frequent talk of masturbation, what Smith has done with The Alex Crow is written a book tears down and examines the toxic nature of masculinity and the ways in which men have and continue to ruin the world. The lone female in The Alex Crow is the author of research into creating a world without men, and though she and her book are treated by the narrator and his friends as something of a joke, she actually seems to provide the sole voice of reason in a world filled with ice demons and melting men and biodrones and suicidal, de-extincted crows.

This isn't an easy book to read. The melting man is disgusting and the things Ariel goes through in the refugee camps are especially painful to read. But I think this book is even better than Grasshopper Jungle because it takes a broader view of the world. Rather than being focused on one boy's teenage angst over a girl, it looks at larger issues and tries to work through them in the warped and insane way that only Andrew Smith can.

I think a lot of people will see this as just another "boy" book, but I feel like it's more of a satire of a boy book. If it has a message, it's that boys are gross, and men screw everything up. By the end of the book, I can't help wondering if we wouldn't all be better if Dr. Nussbaum managed to eradicate the male species after all.

I have more to say about this, but I'm going to leave it at that and go calculate some digits of pi.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,415 reviews7,428 followers
March 24, 2015
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

Before starting The Alex Crow I was feeling kinda like this . . .

Dallas Commercial Photography

Now that I’m finished, I’m feeling a little different . . .

Dallas Commercial Photography

That’s not to say this was a baaaaaaaad book. I found it interesting and read it in a day. It just wasn’t for me. The Alex Crow is a complex story. It not only tells the tale of Ariel . . .

“Here is an immigrant kid, a second son named Ariel, who has lived, and lived, and lives again, in a place called Sunday.”

But also that of a schizophrenic named Lenny, the ill-fated voyage of a ship named the Alex Crow, the Dumpling Man, a very unusual crow, and one unforgettable summer spent at a camp for boys who have an unhealthy relationship with technology. Boys that I pictured looking a lil' something like this . . .

Dallas Commercial Photography

The Alex Crow is a book that takes you on its journey via various narrators and through different places in time. It’s one I can’t tell you much about because the getting there is the entire point. I can say the trip was an interesting one that made me think about some larger than life issues . .

“There’s not a single thing on this planet – not an organism, a sea, a river or lake, and even the weather that surrounds us, that hasn’t been changed by human beings. For good or bad, we’re in charge of the rate at which everything changes now. Every living thing and the majority of nonliving systems too. We’ve become our own God, I suppose.”

I also confirmed that although Andrew Smith’s stories always center around a 14-16 year old boy, they are NEVER the same.

Smith took some flack recently regarding what I considered to be a completely benign statement about his ability to write a “quality” female character. (Who exactly is the judge of character "quality" anyway? I've read plenty of shitty female characters in YA stories - written by both men and women). Smith was accused of being a possible woman hater, or at minimum a perpetuator of “normalized sexism.” Why can’t he just be called a guy who writes what he wants to write? Don’t like his books, don’t buy them. As for me? I love him and will continue to read whatever he chooses to produce . . . whether they include female characters or not. Heck, it’s not often I find an author whose “misses” for me still score 3 Stars.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,205 followers
March 7, 2015
This was so gratuitous I almost quit. But seeing it continues to get rave reviews and be heralded as literary genius, I kept going.

My take away was that men are horrific beings. The only thing I wanted was to actually see Mrs. Nussbaum's book become reality.

Also, no female main character would ever get away with a story like this, and neither would any female author.
Profile Image for Braiden.
359 reviews204 followers
May 2, 2015
Andrew Smith is an inspiration as a storyteller to me.


Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith was a standout novel in 2014, regardless of its young adult categorisation. With a film in development and Edgar Wright attached as director, it will surely become a cult classic in years to come. Now, in 2015, Andrew Smith brings us The Alex Crow the story of fifteen-year-old Ariel, a Syrian refugee living with the Burgess family in West Virginia. Ariel, along with Max, his adoptive brother, is sent off to Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys, a summer camp where technology is void and interactions are key. Not that Ariel and Max are addicted to technology... but their inventor father is just making the most of the perks involved in being a researcher for the company involved in the Alex Project.

Simultaneous with flashbacks of Ariel's village under attack to arriving in America, two other narratives come alive: Arctic explorers venture into the unknown aboard a ship called the Alex Crow in the 1800s in one, uncertain of failure or success, while the other details the chronicles of the "melting man", a schizophrenic character with voices in his head compelling him to commit various violent acts. There's also mention of Alex, a talking robotic crow, owned by the Burgess'.

Despite the present near-future setting mixed with the historical period of the 1800s, The Alex Crow is a multi-faceted human story. Ultimately, it is about the failure of male-dominated societies and their misguided attempts at success, where compassion is mistaken for control, in navigational and scientific adventures and discoveries. On a thematic level, just like Grasshopper Jungle, The Alex Crow makes you think. The US publisher has promoted Smith's latest novels under the 'Keep YA Weird' banner, and they surely are weird and witty and smart.

If you're new to Andrew Smith, I'd say begin with 100 Sideways Miles and then move onto Grasshopper Jungle and The Alex Crow. After that then read The Marbury Lens, Winger, and Stick. And then In the Path of Falling Objects, Ghost Medicine and Passenger. Oh, fuck it! Just read them all.
Profile Image for Rachel Louise Atkin.
849 reviews91 followers
November 26, 2017
2nd reread: This book is freaking glorious, can’t wait to write on it.

Reread: This book is absolutely magnificent and I think is now one of my favourites. Andrew Smith is an incredibly clever writer and is horrendously underrated inside the Young Adult genre. The motifs inside this novel were hard-hitting - the main character Ariel was constantly inside liminal spaces. As a refugee, he has no home and no family. Instead he is resurrected through symbolic "de-extinction", he is not allowed to die but is constantly saved by American Men who are obsessed with progress. Yet through this progress, they inevitably destroy the things they try to save.
Ariel's story is reflected through time. He is saved by hiding inside a refrigerator that metaphorically freezes him in time, so that when he exits from it he walks out into a completely new life as a resurrected being. The inclusion of the Dr Merrie's diary entries from the 1880s detail an expedition to find Katkov's Beast that has been trapped in ice. Ariel, as a refugee from the Middle East, becomes a figure of America's problems condensed into one child. They attempt to rescue him from the ice just as they recuse the Beast - both figures are not allowed to stay inside the ice (or refrigerator) where they hinder progress.
What Smith shows, however, is the danger of progress, especially masculine progress, shown through the character of the melting man. He is a by-product of the Merrie-Seymour Division experiments and seeks destruction wherever he drives. As well as Smith's prose taking inspiration from the erratic yet captivating writer of Stephen King, the degeneration of humanity through the masculine need to control and manipulate the future becomes the ultimate downfall for the characters. Yet almost none of them repent their actions, and progress is instead left to run it's deadly course.
Not only is this a book about the horrors of science, but it also shows the reality of terror and war in the Middle East. It does not shy away from the harsh abuse that goes unnoticed worldwide. The majority of the book, which centers on boys camp that Ariel and his new brother attend, similarly show the complex nature of technology and friendship and the extent to which science has control over life and nature. Smith again takes inspiration from famous coming-of-age novels, but also the sexuality of writers such as Bukowski in it's crudeness.
The book is immensely troubling but also very complicated in its message, and this is why I love it so much. If you would like to read Young Adult fiction that blends science-fiction, coming-of-age, horror, and terrorism, then you need to read this novel.


HIS WRITING WAS SO MUCH LIKE STEPHEN KING IT MADE ME WANT TO LEAK WATER FROM MY EYES. Okay so this book is about a kid who is adopted into an American family after surviving this mass genocide, and he goes to a camp with his older brother. Their Dad is mental and does some crazy experiments and so there's all this weird genetic and science stuff going on. PLUS A MENTAL DUDE WHO HEARS THE VOICE OF JOSEPH STALIN IN HIS HEAD DRIVING AROUND THROUGH THE WHOLE BOOK, IT WAS SO GREAT.
Andrew Smith is such a good writer. The bits about the boys in the camp were like some Bukowski novel and the rest was just mental. READ ALL OF HIS BOOKS.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews256 followers
March 23, 2015
5 Stars

Alex Crow by Andrew Smith is a fantastic coming of age story about teenage boys. Once again, Andrew Smith has shown me why he is one of my very favorite authors today. He writes about boys to men, for boys to men, kicking it just for you. Smith wrote my favorite novel of last year, 100 Sideways Miles so this one had a lot to live up to. I have read the Marbury series twice and I really hope that Smith brings us back there for more.

This book has a bit of the Stand by Me feel but with very different circumstances. Our main protagonist Ariel is a 15 year old middle eastern boy who has lost everything. He has had all of his family and friends killed in war, had his life displaced several times, and finds himself living with a foster family in America. This is the story about Ariel and his new brother Max going off to summer camp.

Smith layers this story with backstory, colorful side characters, and the setting of the camp. The story contains monsters, a marshmallow man, a resurrected suicidal Crow, a melting man, Joseph Stalin, and much more. Masturbation is probably mentioned in a hundred different colorful ways. I loved the way that Smith allows the story to progress naturally and growth to occur slowly, nothing is forced. The heavy underlying stories add to the weight of the main plot but then pays off greater in the end.

Andrew Smith has a unique writing style. I could probably read a couple of paragraphs and be able to pick his out easily. I love his writing. The way he structures his novels, paragraphs, sentences, and words, all cry out to Men. I am sure that that women also enjoy his writing style but they can see how men would identify with it. There are some that claim Smith to be a chauvinist because he hardly writes about women, and when he does they are often sexual objects. Well I see it as Andrew Smith writes about young men and let's face it most young men are not the most morally grounded. This book is no exception.

I love his style :

---"Everyone in Sunday, West Virginia eats sauerkraut and also shoots things."
---"He grew up in Idaho, where kids were naturally expected to blow things up."
---"It was a refrigerator. I needed to pee."

I love the colorful side characters :

"Igor Zelinsky, Leonardo Fountain, was a pus-oozing nuclear leper, emitting enough radiation that if you stuffed his clothes with popcorn kernels, you could open up a fucking movie house. At least that's what Joseph Stalin told him."

I loved the fabulous ending.

This is a heartfelt coming of age story that is all heavy with horrible atrocities that are told through back story. Andrew Smith is one of the best authors writing today. Men and boys alike will surely love this book and all of his others, but I am sure the fairer sex would also see the brilliance of his writing and the magic of his stories....

I love Andrew Smith!

Highest recommendations!
Profile Image for Anna.
261 reviews
March 5, 2017
This is honestly my favorite Andrew Smith book, but I also feel like this is quite an unpopular opinion. (the other books I've read by Andrew Smith are Winger and Grasshopper Jungle)

I personally think this book is genius. Andrew Smith makes some daring statements in this book which he then overshadows a bit with the extreme absurdness in this book.

This book had different story lines and different time lines that switched each other of. I personally thought it worked really well and that all the different story lines were interesting. Though you definitely need to pay attention whilst reading this book because it's very strange and it might take you some time to actually get what is going on. I really loved that I had to pay such close attention, but I can get that it might not be what you're looking for.

I think Andrew Smith touched on some really important topics in this book, such as being a kid in the horrors of a war. But even more important, a child who spend about a year as a refugee and the horrors that he came across there. It was so eyeopening so read from that perspective.

I really loved this book and if you're looking for something strange, a bit more complex and eyeopening, then I do really recommend this book.
Profile Image for BookNightOwl.
975 reviews169 followers
February 10, 2020
I enjoyed this book. The diverse group of characters where fun to read and learn about. When Ariel town is smoked out he lives because he fell asleep in a refrigerator. The story goes back and forth from him being in camp with his "foster" brother and his life before. There is also little stories thrown in the book. This is a story that needs your undivided attention so you get what's going on. I love the humor in this book but also the seriousness this book tells about children in war, camps and etc.
Profile Image for Emily Mead.
569 reviews
August 23, 2015
This. Was. So. Strange. Like??? How am I supposed to review this??? I THINK I liked it. In some parts. I mean, it was definitely genius. Just maybe a bit over my head.


I’m not even sure how to begin reviewing this book.

Andrew Smith may be a genius, that’s for sure. But clearly I’m not, because this book was pretty much incomprehensible to me.


– Bioengineered crows

– A camp for boys who are addicted to technology

– A schizophrenic man who hears voices from his GPS and Joseph Stalin

– Ship logs from the 1800s

– Our main boy Ariel (AH-RIEL) who’s quite sweet really, and doesn’t talk much – in fact all of the other boys think he’s mute at first

Other reviewers have been amazed at how these four storylines came together in the end. For me, they didn’t.

Except for Ariel (and maybe the schizophrenic guy at some points) none of the other stories were appealing to me.

That said, I DID like Ariel’s story quite a lot. There are some sad parts – he’s from the Middle East and he was found in a refrigerator, and some really horrible stuff happens to him before he comes to America. Hearing those parts made me emotionally connect to the story, because he is a pretty great narrator. He’s writing this story to his brother Max, and you can tell there’s some stuff he’d rather not talk about, but it’s important to him that he does.

And the developing relationship between Ariel and Max – his American adopted brother – is quite lovely, too.

I wasn’t a big fan of Max on his own, though, to be honest.

Basically he’s a very teenager-y teenaged boy. As in, most of his dialogue consists of trying to make a euphemism for masturbation. You would not even believe how many there are.

And how much I really did not care for them.

A lot of it was also about war.

And how, you know, men keep screwing things up. Or that was how I read it, anyway. The only real female character in the book – Dr. Nussbaum – is researching all this stuff about eradicating men forever, since females CAN exist without them.

But ultimately, the pieces just didn’t connect for me.

They may for you! Scrolling down the Goodreads reviews, they ALL seem to be four or five stars – they praise the genius of this book, the way Andrew Smith creates intersecting storylines that deal with the real issues. My problem was that they seemed too disconnected, too broad, and that I wasn’t really interested in the characters.
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,211 reviews145 followers
September 22, 2019
Reviewing Andrew Smith novels is tricky. They stubbornly resist synopsis, imparting their message not through clean, clear narrative structure but rather a messy form of osmosis. The Alex Crow is as good an example as any. It's a miracle that fifteen-year-old Ariel (pronounced Ah-riel) is alive after his village was wiped out by insurgent gunmen. The undersized teen, dressed like a clown, survived by taking cover inside a walk-in refrigerator. The year that followed was a series of traumatic events on Ariel's meandering journey that ended in the United States; The Alex Crow records his suffering in and out of refugee camps, told through chapters that alternate with the present day, where life is no less gross and complicated even if Ariel isn't at perpetual risk of dying.

Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys. Ariel's adoptive American parents, Jake and Natalie Burgess, send him and their son Max there for the summer even though neither boy wants to go. The goal is to provide a break from technology, to encourage boys to enjoy themselves outdoors, but none of the campers—all adolescents—are enthusiastic. Ariel rarely speaks to his bunkmates in Jupiter cabin, who are as cynical and foul-mouthed as their counselor, Larry. Max, for one, has resented Ariel ever since the young refugee, who is only sixteen days his junior, migrated to the U.S., and being away from their parents isn't helping them bond. Jake Burgess works for the Merrie-Seymour Research Group as a genetic engineer of unnatural animals; he can even resurrect dead ones to life, though that has consequences Ariel and Max choose not to ponder. Ariel suspects the reason Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys exists is less than noble.

How did the Merrie-Seymour Research Group originate? We learn the story from a series of journal entries dating to the late 1800s, written by Alexander Merrie. His ship, the Alex Crow, is stuck in ice in earth's northern oceanic regions. Between injuries to the crew and relentless arctic temperatures, the odds of anyone aboard surviving to see America again are bleak. Merrie appears in no position to someday found a powerful research firm, but then he makes a dark discovery. What creature could survive centuries entombed in ice, unknown to humanity? Back in the present day, a mentally unstable man named Leonard Fountain drives across the U.S. in a repurposed U-Haul moving truck, listening to the voices in his head and teetering on the brink of violence. His body is falling apart, a mess of blisters, blood, and pus, but the man has a personal mission to complete before dying. Leonard has an appointment with destiny at Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys.

The Alex Crow isn't a pleasant read. The campers are obsessed with rude humor and perverse sexuality, and Mrs. Nussbaum, the camp psychologist, advocates a thinly veiled negative eugenics philosophy with regard to male humans. Ariel's story transcends all that to a limited extent. Life before America brutalized him, but he resurrected himself multiple times from traumas that could have killed his soul, and he's alive and reasonably whole today. "I have had many lives before we met, Max", he reflects to his brother, after the events of this novel. "I have been extinct, and brought back again and again and again." Whatever horrors we endure, we can rise up out of the dirt shoveled atop our would-be grave. Embracing bitterness or nihilism is not inevitable. I rate The Alex Crow one and a half stars and come close to rounding to two; Ariel's story nearly rises above the book's cynicism and tedious repetitiveness, but can't fully escape its gravitational pull. This is one of Andrew Smith's better novels, though, and I'd read him again.
Profile Image for George Ilsley.
Author 12 books217 followers
February 14, 2023
Took me three tries to get into this.

First time, I never made it past the bomb blast on the first page. Second time, I gave up after 20 pages because there were so many unconnected story lines.

Finally I started again and built up enough inertia to make it through. Don't really feel the story lines actually all worked or became coherent. I was drawn to this book because of the Arctic explorer angle (loosely modeled apparently after the Jeannette expedition; for more on that unbelievable true story see In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette).

Unfortunately, I found the Arctic exploration segments to be the weakest (perhaps because I was expecting too much). Smith does not talk down to his readers, so I wonder why the "journal extracts" from the Arctic explorers were not more believable. I enjoyed the summer camp business, and wish the whole novel had been based on real people with real lives instead of some wacky sci-fi conceit.
Profile Image for Basyirah.
247 reviews32 followers
January 23, 2019
"I thought you were a psychologist," I said.

"Well! Aren't you talkative today? It's so nice to see this breakthrough! I happen to be a medical doctor and a psychologist! Everything you could ever need all rolled into one!"

And she makes her own sperm, too, I thought.

- - - -

"This is antibiotic ointment. So you won't get an infection."

And I thought, why would she care if I got an infection? She wanted all of us to die, anyway."

- - - -

I was so tired of being saved and saved again and again. Couldn't I just stay in one place-frozen there forever?

- - - -

"You are shooting. You are shooting."

Welcome to America.

- - - -

This is a very strange book and I love the strangeness of it so much. Hands down, one of the best books I've read! The story about Ariel, a middle eastern boy who survived an attack during the war and was brought to America and was adopted by an American family, which he came to learn had been adding more strange things to his life. I have no idea how to talk about this book without spoiling everything. Let's just say it's funny and amusing but twisted, laced with heartbreaking events.

There were quite a few characters, stories being told from a couple of point of views but you will come to realise how they're all related to one another. And the fact that the correlation was so smoothly strange and strangely smooth really made me happy. One point to another, I was like DAMN SO THAT WAS IT'S ABOUT.

Ayyyy I love this book so much you guys! Please, if you could spare some time to read it, read it!
Profile Image for Jaksen.
1,305 reviews57 followers
July 27, 2015
A book about friendship, about kindness and cruelty, the inevitability of conflict and the overall weirdness of being alive in the world at this time. I love Andrew Smith and his take on life - on existence itself.

Three stories are being told here, one about Ariel, a fifteen-year old boy orphaned by the war in an unnamed country in Africa. One moment he's playing the clown in a play; the next he's hiding in a refrigerator after watching his friends either be shot to death or taken away to be boy soldiers. When Ariel emerges from said refrigerator, his entire town is gone - people gassed; everyone dead. Taken in by a group of soldiers, he lives on ...

The second story is about a group of 18th century men trapped in the Arctic ice aboard the Alex Crow, about how they manage to survive - and find a small man-like creature frozen in the ice.

Third story is about Lennie, who has something terribly wrong with him. Well, he's melting, and talking to imaginary - or not - people as he trundles down the road in an old truck on some impossibly insane mission.

The stories all eventually intersect. While Ariel learns what it is to be an American boy - at a summer camp where boys are de-technologizied; and the crew of the Alex Crow struggle to survive; and Lennie careens on down the road, other forces are at work. Scientists, intent on creating a special sort of crow who shouldn't be here anymore, who should be gone. And biodrones, biological implants that allow the scientists to see and hear everything a person, or even an animal is doing. This is an insanely entertaining and thought-provoking story which does make sense - in its own world, that is.

Or maybe in ours. Though there are three intersecting storylines, the main character is Ariel and how he learns to re-navigate life and make two rock-solid friends as he does. He quite literally goes through hell, but emerges relatively sane and intensely likeable. I'd like to see Mr. Smith give Ariel another book.

Because I loved this one.

Profile Image for Stefani Sloma.
398 reviews117 followers
August 24, 2015
Can't believe I waited this long to try Andrew Smith. Loved this strange, sometimes awkward, always wonderful book, and I can't wait to read more by him.


The Alex Crow was my first Andrew Smith book, and I was pretty blown away. This book is nuts, you guys. It’s remarkably strange and different and weird, and I loved it. I’m not even really sure how to review it because of how weird it was, but I’ll try.

Andrew Smith expertly weaves together three seemingly separate story lines about a melting man who was told by Joseph Stalin to build a bomb and travel hundreds of miles to set it off, an exploratory ship from the 1880s (called The Alex Crow) on its way to the North Pole, and a Middle Eastern boy named Ariel (AH-riel, get it straight) who is the lone survivor of his village being murdered by a terrorist group and is now living in the US. It’s surprisingly hard to go into much detail about the plot of this book without giving anything away, but I was completely enthralled and shocked with how it all came together.

I loved the focus on friendship in this book. Ariel, his adoptive brother Max (aka he of the innumerable euphemisms for masturbation), and Cobie, the only other sane kid at the camp where the three of them are sent, bond over the uncontrollable situation they’ve been thrown into. They go through a lot of crazy stuff, and it brings them closer.

This is a layered, complicated story that actually goes a lot deeper than what meets the eye. It brings up a lot of hard issues like morality, race, gender, friendship, and kindness. It’s not always the easiest book to read nor is it like anything else you’ve ever read (or at least anything I’ve ever read). This book is messy and complicated and just so so good.

The bottom line: I honestly cannot wait to read another of Andrew Smith’s books. The Alex Crow was disturbing, weird, awkward, hilarious, and absolutely wonderful.
Profile Image for Sara Grochowski.
1,142 reviews567 followers
January 11, 2015
The Alex Crow is another knockout novel from storyteller Andrew Smith. Like he did with Grasshopper Jungle, Smith has given readers a novel that’s engaging, often absurdist, and in many ways uncomfortably honest. And, again, he’s given us a book that’s near impossible to describe in only a sentence or two because any answer to “What’s it about?” will simply lead to more questions. So I will say, it’s a layered story about a boy named Ariel, a reincarnated crow named Alex, a historic expedition, and a melting, schizophrenic bomber. It’s a book about big questions, complicated lives, and messy answers. I will say, you need to read this book.
Profile Image for B.A. Wilson.
2,444 reviews305 followers
April 2, 2016
Dear Andrew Smith: I love how your mind works. The way everything gets woven together, even though it seems like it should be impossible to connect all the different threads, is fascinating. Carry on.

And someone please make a documentary on how he comes up with his ideas and weaves a story together, because I write and don't have a clue how he even begins to pull off something as genius as this, GJ, and 100 Sideways Miles. His style is so unique and distinct. I'd know his stories, even if they didn't have his name on them.
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,475 reviews259 followers
June 11, 2015
Weird yet absolutely mesmerizing. I loved seeing how each of the seemingly disconnected stories of a refugee living in Sunday, WV with his new adoptive family, a schizophrenic bomber, and a failed arctic expedition from the 1800s...and a depressed, bionic de-extincted crow. This wasn't exactly an easy read, but I couldn't put it down. Smith is one of my favorite new voices on the scene and a fantastic voice of teenage boys - all of his characters, as outlandish as they come across feel very real and funny. The Alex Crow is not to be missed!

Profile Image for Rizal.
152 reviews24 followers
August 20, 2015
This was a very complex story that I ever read by Andrew Smith.

Weird, gory, mental, poignant, complex and DEFINITELY good.

Profile Image for joey (thoughts and afterthoughts).
139 reviews142 followers
August 21, 2015
[See the full review at thoughts and afterthoughts.]

Rating: 3.8/5

Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:

— A multilayered story filled with stark humour, intrigue, and unhinging pathos to deliver a witty tip of the hat to a world run amok by testosterone
— Follows four perspectives, each with a different time period, style of writing, and tone. The juxtaposition in narratives doesn’t immediately pay off until later in the story
— A diverse, weird, satirical YA-read exploring boyhood through a migrant experience (Syria) to an American society of “boys being boys”
— Trigger warning: there are a lot of sexual innuendos to last a lifetime but they are completely in character. Teenage boys are keenly represented in this novel

Initial Thoughts:
I’m really unsure how to review a book like this.

Full disclosure: I received an advanced reader copy of The Alex Crow through Goodreads First Reads. I extend thanks to Dutton Books via. Penguin Random House Canada for providing me the opportunity to review this book.

Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.

Profile Image for Ari.
973 reviews106 followers
August 15, 2017
Yah... pokoknya kalau baca buku Andrew Smith jangan harap cerita yang biasa, normal, lurus-lurus saja. Dari tema, writing, plot sampai karakter, kadang aneh cenderung absurd. Mencampuradukan scifi dengan teenage angst, scifi dengan drama perang...
But that's what I like from him ^^

Pun demikian dengan Alex Crow...
Ceritanya disajikan lewat 4 timeline

Timeline Ariel yang sedang bercerita tentang hidupnya sebagai sole survivor dari pembantaian di desanya, menjadi refugee, sampai kemudian diangkat anak oleh sebuah keluarga di Amerika. It's the most heartbreaking story.

Timeline Leonard Fountain - The melting man, yang selalu diarahkan oleh suara-suara di kepalanya. Ini yang paling membingungkan :))

Timeline Merry-Seymour Camp for the boys, cerita tentang Ariel, Max (his American brother) dan Cobbie Peterson, yang sedang mengikuti summer camp khusus untuk anak-anak kecanduan gadget, not that the three boys have that problem. Mungkin timeline ini yang paling menghibur dan mudah diikuti. Saya suka bonding dan dinamika Ariel, Max dan Cobbie.

Timeline penelitian The Alex Crow di tahun 1880 yang berakhir tragis dan menjadi awal dari semua peristiwa di cerita ini.

Awalnya memang timeline-timeline itu seperti tidak berkaitan but it's all come together eventually

Dan setelah Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith , kemudian buku ini, saya curiga Andrew Smith obsessed with human extinction :)
Profile Image for KokoHally .
37 reviews17 followers
July 19, 2016
More like, 2.5/5 .

I'm still not sure what I just read... this whole book was weird and strange and bizarre that I didn't even have the faintest idea what was happening half of the time. Nevertheless, I kind of, well, enjoyed it? I don't know.
Profile Image for Bethany.
187 reviews14 followers
April 17, 2015
"I have lived, and lived, and lived again.
I could not tell this to anyone, Max. I only hope it is not unfair of me to tell you."


Andrew Smith's books just keep getting stranger and stranger! How does he do this? Where does he come up with this stuff! It is both odd and spectacular at the same time. Wow.

The Alex Crow was a peculiar book, to say the least.

I'm going to try to explain it the best I can.

This is going to be confusing. I'm just warning you now.

Okay! *sucks in deep breath* Let's get started!

The Alex Crow is a novel with many story lines, all that are strangely independent, but will intertwine with each other towards the end.

The book is about a fifteen year old boy named Ariel. (Ah-riel, not Air-iel.) Ariel likes to think that he's lived many lives, starting from the time he was fourteen and had to hide in a refrigerator while the rest of his small village in the Middle East got attacked. He ended up being the only survivor of the attack.

Orphaned and scared, Ariel ends up being adopted by an American family in a town called Sunday, in West Virginia. The Burgess family consisted of Natalie and Jake Burgess the mother and father, and their fifteen year old son, Max, who is exactly sixteen days older than Ariel. Ariel is convinced Max hates him. Oh, and the family pet is a depressed suicidal bionic once-extinct reincarnated crow, named Alex.

This isn't even the weird part.

Anyway, Ariel and Max have been sent to a summer camp for six weeks in the George Washington National Forest, called Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys.

Each cabin is labeled a different planet, and Jupiter is Ariel and Max's cabin. There, Ariel must spend time with Max Burgess, his American fifteen year old brother, who may just be the master at coming up with different clever terms to substitute the word masturbation, Cobie Petersen, a tough funny and sarcastic sixteen year old who goes to their same school, Robin Sexton, a twitchy out-of-it aloof thirteen year old, Trent Mendibles, a tall hairy fourteen year old who completely obsesses over a video game, and Larry, their cranky pissed-off camp counselor for Jupiter.

"Trent told us, 'I wished they would have put me in one of the normal kids' cabins.'
But that's how we five boys of Jupiter pulled way out into he lead against the other five
normal planets at Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys."

Ariel is convinced that he, Max, and Cobie don't belong.

Things seem strange to Ariel at the camp. As time passes, both Max and Cobie begin to realize that too.

While this story is being told, another story line takes place. Journal entries from a failed artic expedition by sea to the north in 1880's are told, written by a doctor who may discover something far more interesting than the thing they had been looking for all along.

"Luck is with us, nd it has turned on us as well."

While this story is being told, yet another story is being told. It is Ariel writing to his brother, Max, about all of what exactly happened to him, since that incident when he was hiding in the refrigerator to when he was taken to America. It is a heartbreaking story, with so many lives that he's lived, for he was born and born again with the many lives that he's touched and that have touched him. Some stories of his are downright scary. Others are uplifting. Others are saddening. Ariel has been through a lot, that's all I can say.

"I'm so sorry to be telling you this, but it's what happened to me..."

While this story is being told... yup, you guessed it; another story is being told! (This one is my favorite to explain)

Okay, so there's this man named Leonard Fountain, and he is a melting man. No, literally, he's melting!! He's losing teeth and hair and he's got pus coming out of him, and he's bleeding and his car is practically toxic he's just melting!

Leonard Fountain scares the living daylights out of me. I swear.

He is wildly schizophrenic, and hears multiple voices in his head, which includes Joseph Stalin —Joseph Stalin out of all people, where does Andrew Smith come up with this stuff!?— who constantly gives Leonard really bad advice.

"'Good afternoon,' Francis MacInnes said through the passenger window on his pickup. 'I'd be pleased to offer you some help, if you're in need of it.'
'When the boy gets out of the truck, look to see if there are any cars on this road, and if there aren't, shoot him one time in the side of his head,' Joseph Stalin said.
'Huh?' Leonard Fountain was confused.
Francis MacInnes hitched his thumb at the dented old moving van. 'Moving?'
'Murder him,' Joseph Stalin said."

There's also this female voice in his head, called 3-60, who to me, reminds me of the bland GPS lady's voice. Basically, 3-60 is there to narrate every single thing the melting man does. She is annoying, but also very funny compared to Joseph Stalin's completely different voice.

"'You are driving. You are driving,' 3-60 said.
'I am driving,' the melting man said.
'You never do anything right,' Joseph Stalin said."

Basically, the melting man is trying to escape a drone that he is convinced is following him. He is also trying to stop the Beaver King. (I still don't really get what the Beaver King is... don't worry about it, he's schizophrenic.) There are more voices that get introduced, and things get weirder and weirder. I was reading a particular part out loud to my mom, and I could barely speak, because I was laughing so hard, because it was all so ridiculous.

Do you want to know the weird part?

All of these stories end up coming together to make sense!!!!

Can you believe that?

I still can't believe it.

This book was smart, so smartly written. I was surprised by it all. I still am shocked. There were parts that were so overly bizarre and shocking to me, that I just had to close the book, set it down, and mull over what the heck I had just read. It was great though, and it really made sense at the end, as crazy as it sounds.

I loved everything. The characters, who were all so diverse, lovable, and downright hilarious!! The places that took place, especially West Virginia, because, well, I really love the Appalachian mountains, and West Virginia rocks! The plot, because it was just so bizarre and wonderful. Everything was great.

Andrew Smith, you didn't kill my favorite character for once!!!! Yesssssssss!!!!!! Finally!!!!! *gets to knees and bows to you* Thank you!!!!

Would I recommend this to people? Yes! Yes! I'm just warning you, you're up for one heck of a book! Wow. It will knock you off of your seat! It is a brilliant book! I loved it!

"Here, kitty-kitty."

Seriously, where does Andrew Smith come up with these ideas??

"Alex, our pet crow, attempted suicide one time by trying to drink a bottle of our dad's gin.
He did not succeed."

Profile Image for ren.
45 reviews13 followers
February 27, 2018
andrew smith is legit one of my favorite scifi writers i just wish he didnt hate women so much
Profile Image for Jaz.
564 reviews179 followers
January 14, 2017
Firstly, thanks to Hardie Grant Egmont Australia for this review copy.

The only thought I had after finishing The Alex Crow was this: well thank God that’s over. I regret reading this book. It was honestly the biggest waste of my time. Two emotions dominated whilst reading: confusion and/or boredom.

The book is actually told from three perspectives – the majority of which by a boy named Ariel who is an orphan as a result of war in the Middle East and gets adopted by an American. The other perspectives are from an insane guy (the ‘melting man’), and the journal entries of a doctor on an expedition on a ship called the Alex Crow in the 1800s. I swear this was so confusing when I was reading from Ariel’s perspective and then suddenly it switches to some guy who is driving and thinks Joseph Stalin is talking to him, then switch again to some dude stuck on a ship in the 1800s. I. Just. Don’t. Care.

I felt that Ariel was more an impartial narrator telling someone else’s story than his own. He was so detached from everything I couldn’t relate to him. He actually went through some awful stuff but the way it was written (while eliciting disgust on my end) didn’t trigger any emotions from me. You could say maybe it was because he was numb to it all, but I say he was unrelatable. It was like he didn’t care… But he did. Ariel had all these repressed feelings that I thought could have been portrayed in a way that appealed to the reader but still be distant to his peers in the story. Sorry kiddo I feel nothing for you.

Anyway, he’s stuck in Camp Merrie-Seymour for Boys with his adopted brother and the camp is run by the company their dad works for. Their parents shoved them there because it’s free but it’s actually a camp for boys who are addicted to games/technology. So we’ve got Ariel, his brother Max, and this other boy named Cobie who are the only normal teenagers in this whole camp of boys who are so far gone they stick toilet paper in their ears to block out reality and pretend to have earbuds in. WTF? That’s the jist of it. I was dying of boredom. Sure there was some male bonding between these guys but I swear it was just a bunch of teenage boys swearing and obsessed with jerking off. Like every second sentence out of Max’s mouth was related to this. Out of all these 277 pages, the only interesting person was Cobie. I actually really liked this kid. He had substance with his humour and knowledge of the outdoors. But even Cobie couldn’t save this book from ultimately being doomed.

There’s sci-fi in this too. Weird, suicidal crows that were extinct but brought back to life, drones, and a research company obsessed with all of this and more. Are you weirded out yet? Because if you aren’t, maybe this book is for you!

My problem with this book was that it could have worked and that’s what is so disappointing. The way Smith set this up, it could have gone really well or really badly. For me, The Alex Crow just missed the mark. From the beginning, I was waiting for everything to come together (I mean, there HAD to be a point to three random perspectives right?) but at the rate it was all going I wasn’t sure it ever would. The pacing was unbearably slow so that when the light bulb did go off for me, it was too late. I’d already given up on the story, gotten bored and was just reading to get it over with. The problem was that the revelations came too late, the confusing bits too heavy from the beginning and not having enough time to properly work the clues in. It was 75% confusion and then 25% dump telling me how everything fit together.

Ohmygod what even is this review. It’s as confusing as the book itself. And no, your brain can’t possibly hurt as much as mine.
Profile Image for Claudia.
2,421 reviews84 followers
April 7, 2015
I read all the reviews here to see if others saw what I saw...and I don't see anything. I think that's what I love about Smith. Our reading experience is a short, intense time together with his imagination. What we get out has been enhanced by what we bring.

Ariel, our main narrator, is a survivor. His good heart, his listening soul have complicated his life. War tears everything away from Ariel, and he begins a journey as a refugee...and he collects stories. Stories of others on this journey, stories of people who did not survive. Each story burdens him a bit more, but he remembers their stories, holds them close. But he does not share. So the burden gets more than his 14-year-old shoulders can carry.

From a refugee camp, and a tent with other orphans who have lost their humanity in an effort to survive, Ariel is suddenly plopped into suburban DC, and a new family. With a brother just days older than he. And the burden of his stories.

Along with Ariel's story, we have the journal of a physician on a doomed Arctic expedition, on the Alex Crow...My recent reading of THE ENDURANCE made this story ring true...even with the fantastical discovery that the doctor brings back to the civilized world...and then there's the insane 'melting man,' who hears Joseph Stalin in his head. How in the world will these three strands combine into a narrative? Trust Smith...I did.

The main story takes place in the six weeks Ariel and his brother attend a camp sponsored by their father's workplace: Merrie-Seymour Camp for Boys. This is where things get weird. Weirder.

You see, Ariel's new dad works for a bio-tech company that brings extinct beings back to life. Whether said extinct beings choose to reanimated or not. Including their pet bird, an extinct crow, named...Alex. Alex, and previous beings, attempt suicide rather that to live artificially.

Then there's Merrie-Seymour Camp...Put adolescent boys together against their will, with no electronic devices, and they will entertain themselves and each other. The camp scenes, and Ariel's response, are hilarious. Gross. Inappropriate. Toweringly clever. Adolescent Boy.

And that brings me to the controversy over the book. It's a world inhabited by males. Mostly young ones, but some strong adults as well. Smith has come under fire for this, and for comments about males and females in his books. He has placed his characters into setting where males dominate...an Arctic expedition in the early 20th century, and in a boy's camp. This book explores those worlds.

The only female, Dr. Nussbaum, is frankly disturbing...her premise, her research, her goal. She is a rich, menacing character. She scares me.

Almost as much as the people Ariel's new dad works with. Their research and its implications are equally menacing.

But for me, at heart, this is about Ariel, his library of lives he left behind; lives of friends and family who are gone...lives he fears sharing. His burden is crushing.

No easy answers about science, about technology. About our tendency to murder and maim each other...sometimes for reasons, sometimes just because we can.

My money is on Ariel, tho. He brings a massive humanity back into the mix. Exactly what our world needs.
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