Long before Andrew Klavan and I became friends, I was a fan of his work -- and I'm a bigger fan today. Klavan is the kind of artist America needs more of; one not only brave enough to trade in the warm embrace of those coastal creatures we call critics and the riches they promise for a toehold in the culture and political wars, but also one who took the learning of his craft seriously and still does. Klavan is an artist first, a writer and storyteller second, and a culture warrior (appropriately) dead last.
Over the years, I've watched Klavan take his duty to our country and to our culture as seriously as anyone ever has. Though he's never told me so, there's little doubt he sees this as a duty even though he pays a price. Once upon a time, a new Klavan novel meant endless reviews in all the right publications and all the other shiny, pretty things that come with being the "correct kind of artist." Today, however, even though he's the same artist, there's not so much of that. But that's the price the left makes you pay as an apostate.
And yet, creatively, the work flourishes. 2010's "Identity Man" was one of the best novels I've read in years (and cannot recommend enough), and now there's "Crazy Dangerous," a new adventure novel for young adults you grown adults can purchase and deliver to your children without worry.
Over the past couple of years, Klavan has written a series of novels for young adults, his most famous being The Homelanders franchise, four best-selling adventure stories about a high school student named Charlie West on the run from terrorists. "Crazy Dangerous" isn't a part of that franchise, but everything that made that series so popular with parents and children alike is here.
Sam Hopkins is a PK, a preacher's kid living with all the baggage that entails in a small town in upstate New York. Like many high schoolers, Sam has an instinct to rebel, and this instinct at first gets him into the kind of trouble many of us got into as youths when he falls in with a gang of thugs and car thieves. Quickly, though, Sam realizes he's made a mistake and that he has to get out of this situation without getting himself killed. Every day he's in deeper and eventually the solution comes along in the form of what you might call Sam's uncontrollable chivalry.
Jennifer is a classmate of Sam's, a strange but innocent girl who requires saving in so many ways. Above all, she's the victim of terrifying visions of demons and worse. But is she crazy?
One of Klavan's great gifts as a storyteller is how effective he is at putting his protagonist through more and more hell. No matter how hard his characters try to extricate themselves, with every turn of the page they find themselves deeper and deeper in what had already seemed like an impossible situation. And not just through circumstance, but emotionally.
But best of all, with "Crazy Dangerous," Klavan remains an example of what an artist with something to say should be. There is no message in "Crazy Dangerous," just a simple theme of "Do right. Fear nothing.," wrapped in an exciting, page-turning tale that extols the virtues of self-sacrifice, chivalry, honesty, and admitting you're wrong in a way that doesn't hide the fact that there's a price to pay in this world for believing such things or that the price is worth the ultimate reward.
Summer approaches fast and your young adult is about to have all kinds of time on his or her hands. Might I suggest a shade tree, a lawn chair, and a copy of "Crazy Dangerous." They'll learn something without even knowing it and have a great time in the process.