young adult book reviews & more

Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson

Destroy All CarsJames Hoff is a long term pessimist—he believes humans have consistently trashes the planet and aren’t doing enough to reverse that trend, thus leading to ecological disaster. Her rejects American consumerism, materialism, and popular fads. And he particularly hates cars, as he views automobiles as the root of today’s environmental problems. He talks big, of change the world, but his AP English teacher is getting fed up with James’ “manifestos.” And his ex-girlfriend Sadie, a supposed activist, seems content to organize food drives and build bike paths, even though those methods won’t save the planet from impending disaster. But James is just out outcast teenager; what can he do? And what happens when other people get in the way of his big plans?

Destroy All Cars, while a good attempt to educate teens about current issues such as the drestruction of the environment all for the sake of “me, me, me!” and “stuff,” was ultimately a failure for me. Firstly, the narrator, James Hoff, is a pessimistic extremist who can’t see good in virtually anything. I agree with many of his thoughts, that American culture seems to be more about commodities and making money than actually thinking individually for the betterment of the world; however, James struck me as annoying, especially in his frequent insults of what he views as mindless American morons, and “all talk.” Despite his passionate rants, James never makes one legitimate action to further his cause. James’ AP English essays are unbelievable as well, and not in a good way; I’m in an Honors English class in the same year as James, and the essays I write have significantly more substance than James’ disguised ranting journals. Second, Destroy All Cars was unsuccessful in conveying its message because I am already aware of the current issues this novel presents as well as many more. In fact, I found it slightly insulting how James lumps all Americans together as being ignorant, particularly teens, because I am a living contradiction to that. And honestly, I think most avid readers are also pretty aware of the world and people just browsing through bookstores would probably avoid this type of novel, thus defeating its purpose. The only redeeming part of this novel is James’ relationship with Sadie and how if opens his eyes further, but other than that, Destroy All Cars was just strange and awkward for me to read.

While not for me, Destroy All Cars may be enjoyed by political and social activists that double as readers. Those who liked So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld may also like this novel.

Rating: 2.5

Review copy from publisher Scholastic

5 munch(es) :

BookChic said...

I saw this book in my bookstore- not sure if I'll read it. I've read a different book of his but it was more on the paranormal side, so I don't know if I'd want to read this.

Anyway, I noticed that you misspelled his name in the blog title- it's Blake not Black. :P

Yan said...

completely agrees

Rachael Stein said...


Saw your comment in my inbox and realized my mispelling. Then I read your comment :D thanks for the heads up, I fixed it!!

Thao said...

The synopsis sounds weird and fun at the same time. Too bad it's not to your liking.

Anonymous said...

Thought the book really left James with no where to go in the end. Who is he? He has given up his "principles" (or at the least the idea of those principles).
I found this book to be slightly better than reading People magazine.

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