I hate the cover art on this one. I've been sitting here, looking at it, trying to come up with a less harsh way of saying that, but... no. There isn't a less harsh way of saying it. I. Hate. The. Cover. It looks to me like someone slapped it together in seven minutes, and I don't understand if the kid on the front is angry or dancing. Or doing an angry dance.
Not that an angry dance is a bad thing.
Anyway. Don't judge a book, etc., etc.
Angry Management is a trio of novellas about characters from Chris Crutcher's previous books. Some you'll remember (Sarah Byrnes), and some you very likely won't (Matt Miller, who literally got one line in Deadline).
The stories are tied together loosely -- all of the characters are in Mr. Nak's (from Ironman) Anger Management group. Each story begins with Mr. Nak's first impressions of the students: Sarah Byrnes and Angus Bethune; Montana West and Trey Chase; Matt Miller and Marcus James.
I love Chris Crutcher. I love Chris Crutcher's books.
I did not love Angry Management.
And I was surprised and disappointed at just how much I did not love Angry Management.
I felt, in the first story, that Angus and Sarah were defined by their pasts. While I understand that to a great extent, Who You Are is something that is Formed By Your Past, I felt that I never got a sense of either of them OTHER THAN what was in their past. A good amount of their dialogue felt stilted and unreal -- something very unusual in a Crutcher book -- and the getting-to-know-you portion of their conversation felt like a big infodump. Because of all that, they both -- Sarah especially -- felt two-dimensional. The story as a whole felt hurried and like a shallow treatment of characters who deserved better.
The second story felt like a retread of material in other books. When I wrote about Deadline, I said that readers would recognize themes and character types, but that it felt right and comfortable and like a revisit. And I said that while the author had previously written about those themes, he still found new ways of looking at them and new aspects to explore. There is a difference between a retread and a revisit. Chris Crutcher has told this story before, and he's told it better. Again, the characters felt two-dimensional and the dialogue didn't feel real. The antagonist wasn't just two-dimensional, he was one-dimensional. And it felt preachy. Which is a hard thing for me to take, even when I agree with what is being preached.
In the third story, pretty much everything I've already said applies, except, in addition, I never saw Marcus James as a person. I saw him as a symbol. And that didn't sit right with me. Even more than in the previous story, I felt that this one came off as extremely preachy: by the end of the story, I felt that none of the narrators were speaking in their own voices -- they were speaking in Chris Crutcher's.
I very much appreciate the idea that, as in real life, the stories and the realities of these characters haven't ended. I just didn't feel that these stories did the characters, the author -- or that idea -- justice.
Book source: My local library.
I read this book for the 2009 Cybils. (Though, of course, I would have gotten to it eventually anyway.)