Short Take: Uh… what just happened here?
I think I’m getting cranky in my old age. Or maybe it’s that I’m lazy, and I just don’t like to think too hard anymore. Maybe my OCD is finally winning, and I just can’t be happy unless everything is wrapped up in a nice neat package, with the corners all taped down and the loops on the bow exactly the same size.
Take, for example, Crazy Love You. This was a really, really, REALLY fun book up until the end.
Ian Paine’s life is one big raw deal. As a child, he suffers through a terrible incident that ends with the death of his baby sister and his mother’s institutionalization. His father tries to make sure he’s OK, but is one of those manly types who has a hard time with emotions. A relentlessly bullied teenager, Ian turns to food and comic books for comfort.
And he turns to Priss – his one and only friend, confidant, lover, avenging angel, his everything, for a very long time. Priss gets even with the bullies and unkind teachers for him. She’s dark and angry, but she doesn’t care how much he weighs, or how much of a social outcast he is. She’s also all he has. He never questions the twisted roads she leads them both down. Eventually, as an adult, Ian begins creating his own comic series “Fatboy and Priss” which becomes successful enough for him to move to a luxury apartment in Manhattan.
Priss moves as well, and the two still see each other occasionally. But then Ian meets Megan. Megan is, quite simply, good. She’s working as a nanny, and actually really cares about the little boy she watches. She’s kind, and pretty in a simple way, and open – everything Priss is not. Ian falls head over heels in love with Megan, and she with him, and their lives couldn’t be any more perfect but for one thing: Priss isn’t happy. And when Priss isn’t happy, very bad things can happen.
There’s a lot of meat to this one. We get flashbacks to when Ian was a lonely, furious teenager, and little drips of insight into who Priss is, interspersed with the scary and bizarre things that are happening to both Ian and Megan today. Crazy Love You shines so hard in these parts. Lisa Unger is fantastic at building these characters, and putting them in jeopardy, and making me flip pages faster and faster to get to the answers.
Ian is an unreliable narrator, and we don’t know if he’s lying or hallucinating or telling the honest-to-God truth throughout the book. Priss is a cypher, maybe real, maybe not, maybe a delusion or a ghost or just a really mysterious person. Megan is drawn to Ian for her own reasons that don’t necessarily make sense to anyone else. What’s great about all of it is that the characters are so damn real. From Megan’s compulsion to be a caretaker, to Ian’s anger and self-loathing, you really get a feel for who these people are, and even when they are behaving in ways you don’t agree with, their actions are exactly what you’d expect.
But none of the story clicks together in any kind of satisfying way by the end. Had the first seven-eighths of Crazy Love You not been so great, I would probably be a lot more forgiving of the ending. I’ve always thought that the open ending is a cop-out. “Was it this, or was it that? WE MAY NEVER KNOW.” Ugh. It’s not thought-provoking, or mysterious, it’s just ambiguous and a little lazy. It’s a way to avoid having to tie up loose ends or fix inconsistencies.
But then again, damn, those were some great characters, and the pace was perfect, and the steadily increasing threats and assaults made Crazy Love You impossible to put down. What the heck, I’d still recommend it for those reasons.
The Nerd’s Rating: FOUR HAPPY NEURONS