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Once again blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place,Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith tells the story of 15-year-old Ariel, a refugee from the Middle East 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 of his summer at a boys’ camp for tech detox is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century. Oh, and there’s also a depressed bionic reincarnated crow.
The Alex Crow contains 3 stories in one book about civil war, refugee camps and immigration. Although the topics covered are on the dark side, the author succeeds in conveying the stories without becoming offensive in any form.
The Alex Crow is about self-discovery alongside a hard look at life and history. The Alex Crow contains a lot of swearing and talk about sexuality therefore, I would suggest it is more suitable for older readers. There are not a lot of girl characters within the narrative, the setting is mainly in a boys only camp or on a male only mission. I would say it is the perfect book for teenage boys because of the character, setting and plot are more relatable to boys.
The plot focuses on an orphan, Ariel, who, having survived an attack in his village ends up being terrorized in a refugee camp. Eventually taken into the Burgess family in Sunday, West Virginia. Ariel’s adoptive father, Jake, is a top-level scientist for a for a secret research group, his wife Natalie has sent Ariel and his adopted brother, Max (who is only sixteen days older than Ariel) to an all boys camp called Camp Marie Seymour.
There is a lot going on within the plot of The Alex Crow; Ariel’s story is linked with diary entries from a doctor on a threatened Arctic expedition as well as an insane psychopath called the “melting man” who thinks Joseph Stalin will order him to carry out attacks. Keeping the reader on their toes and maintaining the tension throughout. I can’t go through the review without mentioning the family pet named the Alex Crow, although it is actually a bionic crown. Can you see why I had to mention it 😉
Andrew Smith is a great story-teller; he has the ability to draw the reader into the story and make them want to continue reading. The comparison between the life of a 15-year-old boy in a refugee camp, who has experienced the worst side of humanity with that of spending 8 weeks at a summer camp shows how insular teens in the western world can be.
The description of the Summer Camp to be like torture, where his camp officer hates him and worst of all there is no access to electronics!!!! As opposed to life in the refugee camp knowing that he is the last survivor in his village, after witnessing everyone being gassed. There really is no comparison to these situations providing a blunt depiction of the insular condition already mentioned. Ariel survives great atrocities yet he is able to continue to keep pushing forward with his life. It was these survival instincts and capacity to persevere that made me really like Ariel’s character. I will definitely be recommending The Alex Crow to friends.