The New York Times
Destroy All Carsby Blake Nelson
James Hoff likes to rant against America's consumerist culture. He also likes to rant against his ex-girlfriend, Sadie, who he feels isn't doing enough to change the world. But just like he can't avoid buying things, he also can't avoid Sadie for long. This is a fantastic, funny, sexy, cool masterpiece from one of the best YA writers at work today, an anti-consumerist love story that's all about idealism, in both James's relationship with the world and his relationships with the people around him.
The New York Times
High school student James Hoff is a passionate writer who rants about everything from sheeplike "Consumer Americans" to the destruction of the environment. He also writes about his ex-girlfriend Sadie, who he feels is a lightweight when it comes to saving the world. While Sadie is involved in positive initiatives like community food drives, James prefers a more radical approach ("The automobile is the foundation upon which our unsustainable lifestyle is based. They must be DESTROYED. All of them. Even the cute ones"). His pugnacious determination is admirable, but even he admits uninspired ("The problem is I don't believe in anything"). James comes to realize that his nihilism, both personal and political, is ultimately alienating him from others and preventing him from reaching his potential. James's journal entries and the combative essays that he writes (and rewrites) for his English teacher make up the brunt of the narrative and demonstrate his eventual growth. Nelson (Paranoid Park) offers an elegant and bittersweet story of a teenager who is finding his voice and trying to make meaning in a world he often finds hopeless. Ages 15-up. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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This novel totally caught me by surprise. I thought it would be a typical ecological story about a boy who wants to save the planet. James Hoff is so much more than that. He is funny and one of the fullest and realest characters I can recall. He thinks about everything and writes about it in a classic teenaged, semi=engaged, semi-not tone. I highly recommend.
A junior in high school without the burning desire to possess and drive his own car? Yep, that's James Hoff. He believes cars are part of what is wrong in this world focused on consumerism and material wealth. He'll walk to the mall and bike to school, and he doesn't understand how everyone else can't see how they are contributing to the destruction of the planet. James is a bit of an outcast. He shuns consumer goods as much as possible, choosing to wear old clothes, worn-out tennis shoes, even going so far as to cut the elbows out of his sweater to make it look even older and more worn. True, this earns him the odd comment or casual sneer from his classmates, but James does have friends who appreciate his different opinions, and he even had Sadie as his girlfriend for a while. Sadie has her own set of "causes," like saving the whales and running the canned food drives for the hungry. Unfortunately, she left James for Will, but rumor has it that she's broken up with Will recently, making James reconsider his feelings for her. She seems interested in renewing their friendship, but James is sort of hoping for more. Problems on the girlfriend front are just the tip of the iceberg for James. Parental pressure has been increasing recently, as well. He's never really cared much for his father, and when the man left a few years back it seemed that maybe he and his mother would be better off without him. Unfortunately, he returned. Now that James is a junior, his father is asking the college questions. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? James has been thinking maybe college isn't for him, at least not right now. His father definitely has other plans. In an effort to convince James college is the path to choose, his father offers to buy him a car as soon as he applies to a college. How can his father know so little about his oldest son? Why would someone who believes in the destruction of all cars actually want one? Blake Nelson works his literary magic as he creates the perfect picture of teenage turmoil. Using dialogue, journal entries, and Junior AP essay assignments, he reveals the world of James Hoff. Clever, witty, sarcastic, moody, love-struck, and confused are just a few of the adjectives that will come to mind as readers enter his world. DESTROY ALL CARS offers an unforgettable roller-coaster ride through one teen's junior year.