CRUSH picks up where Liar Liar left off. Kevin has noticed and fallen logical head over illogical heels in love with Tina Zabinski. Of course, Kevin being who he is, nothing is simple to begin with, and if there's a way to make things more complicated, he'll find it. So instead of just asking Tina out, as his buddy JonPaul advises, Kevin decides to observe, evaluate and study the concept of romance as played out by his parents, by his sister, by his friends, by his thrice-married aunt… indeed, anywhere but in his own life. He explores the relationships around him, hoping all the while that he will discover the magic ingredient that will make it possible for him to sweep Tina off her feet, instead of simply dissolving into incoherent goo whenever he’s near her. Hilarity (as they say) ensues, but the hijinks never drift into the unbelievable, and never exchange truth for laughs. The story is funny, but it’s also achingly true.
Perhaps that is the single best descriptor of CRUSH (and a great deal of Paulsen’s other writing). It is true. And because it is true, it matters. You root for Kevin, even when he’s getting in his own way. You believe him when he tells you that he’d make a good boyfriend, and you turn pages, hoping that this will be the moment he comes to his senses and just talks to the girl he likes.
Gary Paulsen makes his reader wait until the very last sentence in the book for resolution, and yet the ending is so utterly satisfying that you don’t mind. Instead, the very act of closing the book is like a sigh of pleasure, a closing of tired eyes at the end of a full day. Things are perfect in that moment. All is well.
Welcome opportunity to read about a boy's experience of first love