Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

crenshawIn her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

I was first introduced to Katherine Applegate through The One and Only Ivan which I read a couple years back and adored. Crenshaw tugged on my heart the same way with its excellent characters, and simple, yet beautiful, writing.

For a short story, Crenshaw packs a hefty punch. As with Ivan, Applegate takes a subject that people know about but aren’t always fully aware of and through the course of the novel makes you care and become quite passionate about it. I know that people are homeless, or are seriously struggling with money but I never really thought about the implications on a family or children.

Through Jackson’s narrative you really get to thinking about how precarious peoples lives are and how useless and unimportant most of the objects in your house really are. You see the flaws in the system and how hard it is to pull yourself out of poverty and the shame attached. However, the overall mood is not so dark and grim because Jackson’s family is resilient, resourceful and optimistic. Crenshaw proves that wealth doesn’t equal happiness and that there is no excuse for not living a happy and fulfilling life.

I really enjoyed the magic and mystery surrounding Crenshaw in the novel, mainly because it made an otherwise normal contemporary novel unconventional. The impossibility surrounding the magic does also play a key role in the story. Jackson, who values facts can’t understand why his life is out of his control. He also can’t understand why he sees Crenshaw, but he does. As a result of Crenshaw’s presence Jackson begins to understand that life cannot always be controlled or even understood and certainly isn’t as back and white as he would like it to be. Crenshaw also helps Jackson understand the importance of friendship and of being truthful to yourself and others which are important themes in the novel.

Crenshaw is a story that I won’t soon forget, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Recommended.


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