Book of the Week - Crunch

Crunch by Leslie Connor

When Mom and Dad leave for their annual anniversary vacation via tractor trailer, 18-year-old Lil and 14-year-old Dewey are left to take care of their three younger siblings. But then the gas runs out. The children have to fend for themselves. And the family bike repair business is booming with only Dewey and his younger brother Victor to fix the bikes that just keep piling up. To make matters worse, Dewey suspects a thief may be stealing from The Bike Barn and it may or may not be their egg-stealing neighbor. With Lil getting more and more desperate the children wonder, Can they really handle things on their own? and Will their parents ever get home?

Crunch is a smart and engaging story. Connor jumps right into the story from the beginning. No explanation about why they are out of gas or how long it has been going on. It doesn't matter. What matters is that there is no gas now. And the story isn't preachy. No 'Wheel of Morality'. Just a good story. Connor paints a haunting image of what life would be like without gas. The silent and empty highways, the lawlessness, the desperation for food. How many people would be stranded if one day there was no more gas? How many people would need bikes?

More than that though, this story is really abut Dewey and Lil. Dewey know things are difficult without their parents. Taking the five-year-old twins to summer classes on bikes, grocery shopping, running a business. But he is sure he can handle it. He has to handle it. No matter what happens he will show everyone that he can do it. Things get a little hairy though when things begin to go missing in The Bike Barn. Afraid that others will think he isn't capable, Dewey keeps it a secret. Lil has enough to deal with. Does she really need to know about the missing parts? Besides, he can handle it. Right?

This middle grade slightly sci-fi novel was a fun read that rocketed back and forth between independence and fear, but as I learned recently, all good books (especially kids books) need a little fear. Connor was careful though, the children are not afraid of the loss of gas for that is such a large subject, but rather the fear is in the lack of control. The want and desire to feel like everything is handles mixed with the fear that maybe it isn't. What kid can't relate to that.

More importantly, this book made me wonder...What would I do if we ran out of gas?