by David Zimmerman
Pub. Date: April 3, 2012
Book received from: Publisher
“It’s a luscious mix of words and tricks
That let us bet when you know we should fold,
On rocks I dreamt of where we’d stepped
And the whole mess of roads we’re now on.”
~The Shins, ‘Caring is Creepy’
“Try to keep just one thing as yours and only yours and the world burns down. You can’t own anything. You can’t own anything but your own faults. You can’t own anything but your own self, and sometimes event that isn’t yours to keep.”
~ Lynn Marie Sugrue, Caring is Creepy
If caring is creepy, then this book has an extra dose of caring. In Zimmerman’s sophomore effort, he has created a story that is so full of characters seeking human connection and a sense of being needed, that after reading it, I found myself seeking solace to gather my thoughts. Caring is Creepy is a raw, gritty, and dangerous exploration into what it means to teeter on the edge of life, and taking everyone else down as you fall.
15-year-old Lynn and her friend Dani are bored over the summer, and decide to start playing an online “game” with men in internet chatrooms. The game quickly escalates to places the girls are not sure they know how to handle. Soon, Lynn finds herself meeting a young soldier, Logan, in person- exposing them both to a world of danger. Logan is due for another tour in Iraq, and contemplates running from it all. Before they think it through, he is reported as AWOL and being stashed away in Lynn’s attic. In what started as an attempt to help him hide, Lynn soon finds she likes the feeling of Logan needing her and relying on her for everything he does. She quickly falls into the role of captor, and Logan the captive- causing intense emotional and mental flashbacks to his time in Iraq.
While Logan is stashed away, Lynn’s mom has also become tied up in her own problems. As Lynn stumbles on information, and is threatened, she must sort out what is real before it is too late. However, knowing what her mother’s role in everything is becomes difficult to differentiate, given Lynn’s changing role in her own life. She becomes immersed in a world that is so intense and dangerous that she can only focus on one thing: keeping Logan for herself so she is not alone in the end.
While the ending seemed a bit too fast and a bit too final, it does create a certain finality to the months of psychological games and intensity the characters have experienced. The abrupt ending could be seen as signaling how quickly everything is going to change for Lynn and her mother- because there really is no slow, graceful exit from a summer like the one they have just lived.
Zimmerman has created a book filled with atmosphere that draws the reader in to the disturbing world of a confused 15-year-old coming of age in the summer of her discontent. We understand how alone Lyn feels, and therefore understand the decisions she makes throughout the book. Perhaps the most disturbing part of Caring is Creepy is that we are able to understand, even if we do not agree with, the choices being made.
Caring is Creepy is titled after a song by the Shins, which provides the soundtrack for the book, creating even more feeling and atmosphere for the story, as well as a deeper meaning. Zimmerman has done what few writers can: he has written a book that makes one unsure whether it is for the YA crowd or the adult audience. While it is written in the voice of a 15-year-old coming of age, it deals with subject matter far beyond that. This is a book that is easily suitable for either audience, and further blurs the lines of the separation of the two. Regardless of who picks this book up, they will be changed by the end, and find themselves redefining the idea of what it means to love too much.
This book can be purchased at Amazon.com, as well as your local independent bookseller.
To further set the mood, I found this cover of The Shins’ ‘Caring is Creepy’ by Leela and the Agrestics, which I found to be really well suited to the voices of Lynn and Dani in the book.