Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories by Chris Crutcher [Book Review]

THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS

Now that I’m older, I look back on school years gone by and growing up/coming of age. As with all adults, or most, we think “If only I knew then what I know now.” As youngsters we worried about who liked us and who didn’t like us. I’m not referring to the romantic like. The simplest things in life made us think it will either ruin us for life or make us heroes.

TIME WILL TELL OR HEAL

I wish I could redo a lot of things, one of them being school. Mostly high school. I wasn’t a good student for I hated school. However, it was the best year of my life and the worst. Its funny to think that my only job back then was to go to school and yet I complained, as most kids do. My job today is going to work, paying bills, getting the car fixed, keeping the house up and on and on and on.

YOUNG ADULT BOOKS

This is what draws me to young adult books, especially those by Judy Blume. It allows me to escape from the real world and relive those days of junior high and high school. This is also why I enjoyed reading Robert Cormier books. Of all the Judy Blume books my favorite is Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret (1970). I read the book around 2010 or 2011. Yes, I was well into my adult years by then. But it took me back to Margaret’s school age years.

And this why I enjoyed Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher. High school is the them in these collective short stories and what we deemed important during that time. You don’t have to be a jock to be able to relate to the stories or the people. You just have to have gone to high school.

FROM ANGUS TO JOHNNY TO PETEY TO LIONEL AND OTHERS

Angus is the fat kid in school who has to unconventional families (for that time – 1984) and has been voted Home Coming King. He knows it was done as a joke, but soon the joke is on everyone else. However, the journey Angus and us take to get that point hits home.

Johnny has a father who is very controlling and extremely hard on Johnny. Johnny is waiting for the day he can seek revenge on his father and that day arrives, but will revenge be as sweet as he thinks?

Petey is either you or someone you knew in school. He wants to do what’s right, but has a tug of war with himself on what that is. If he pleases this person, then this might happen. If he please someone else, then that might happen. Petey learns you can’t please everyone and that’s OK. He’s willing to take one for the team…Team Petey.

Lionel lost his parents in a boating accident at age 14. He’s been on his own since then as well. Lionel is struggling with the anger he’s held inside for the one person who caused his parents death. Anger with a mixture of high school and the future ahead of you is bad cocktail. Or is it?

These are some of the stories in the book that will take you back to your younger days and school.

Before each story, Crutcher gives a background on where the stories came from which gives even more life to them.

BUT TELEPHONE MAN..

I was going to complain about the use of the N word in the story titled Telephone Man but realized I would be a big hypocrite if I did so. Why? Well because I’ve written a historical fiction novel (still in the works ) about the concentration camps and my book is filled with degrading words the Nazis (and some Germans) would call Jews. Just be forewarned, the story is filled with the N word and not so nice things regarding Asians and anyone else Telephone Man has been taught to hate.

GROWING OLD BUT STAYING YOUNG

This is why I read YA books, to stay young, relive the old days and laugh at myself on how I thought things back then were so serious. Now-a-days, they are trivial. Hind sight is 20/20 but growing old gives you x-ray vision into the past.

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Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories
Author: Chris Crutcher
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (1990); reprinted November 5, 2002
Pages: 208
Available: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks

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