My Kind of Crazy – Robin Reul – Soucebooks Fire – Published 5 April 2016
Despite the best of intentions, seventeen-year old, wisecracking Hank Kirby can’t quite seem to catch a break. It’s not that he means to screw things up all the time, it just happens. A lot. Case in point: his attempt to ask out the girl he likes literally goes up in flames when he spells “Prom” in sparklers on her lawn…and nearly burns down her house.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Peyton Breedlove, a brooding loner and budding pyromaniac, witnesses the whole thing. Much to Hank’s dismay, Peyton takes an interest in him—and his “work.” The two are thrust into an unusual friendship, but their boundaries are tested when Hank learns that Peyton is hiding some dark secrets, secrets that may change everything he thought he knew about Peyton.
My Kind of Crazy is weirdly addictive, sad and way more confronting than I could have imagined. I instantly loved that cover, and I expected a story that was light, with plenty of fun pranks and daredevil schemes. Instead, My Kind of Crazy is far darker, with a mix of sad backstories and characters with serious troubles. It’s dark, deep and just a little seedy, but perhaps also more indicative of real life.
Both Peyton and Hank have troubled home lives. Hank’s brother and mother were killed in a car crash, leaving Hank with his alcoholic father and his father’s girlfriend, who works as a stripper. As the book is narrated by Hank, the reader is only privy to what Hank sees of Peyton’s life, but this includes a mother who never seems to be around, her mother’s abusive, live-in boyfriend, and her own tendency to light things on fire. Hank finds Peyton’s pyromaniac behaviours both intriguing and scary, and Peyton is drawn to Hank when she witnesses Hank accidentally setting her neighbour’s front yard on fire. Not one of Hank’s smartest moments, but one that will certainly alter his final year of high school.
Hank provides an authentic teen male voice, complete with plenty of coarse language and cringe-worthy, crude sayings. The inside of a teen boy’s mind is a scary place sometimes. He is an artist, deeply troubled by the loss of his mother and brother, and yes, often distracted by thoughts of sex and nudity. When he catches a glimpse into Peyton’s life he knows he can’t just walk away or pretend to ignore her distress. And so the two form a weird friendship, made complicated by Hank’s sort-of friend Nick’s attraction to Peyton and Amanda’s goal to find the guy who almost burnt down her house.
The issues discussed in this book are far more serious than I expected, everything from grief and loss, abusive families, uncertain futures and mental health. This book got to the point where I didn’t know how the author could possibly end the book, tie things into a neat bow and send readers on their way. And yet she does just that. In some ways the ending felt a little too simple, too easy, but it does feel authentic. The relationship that builds between Peyton and Hank starts with an uneasy friendship and quickly blossoms into more once they start sharing their issues with each other. I felt the progression of their romance was realistic, but I did feel that their level of feelings was very quick to develop so deeply, to so greatly impact their lives and futures.
My Kind of Crazy was unexpected but made all the better for its confronting tone and subjects, it fits well into the growing collection of mature young adult novels that tackle the harsh reality of teens’ lives, with honesty, humour and romance.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Abuse, grief, pyromania, mental health, family, friendship, romance, high school.
Reading age guide: Ages 14/15 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, f***, s***, as*****, wh***, do****, bit**. Strong, frequent sexual references, nudity and implied sex scenes. Drug and alcohol use and references. Descriptions of violence.
Published: 5 April 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 336 pages.