Cracked by K.M. Walton
January 3, 2012; Simon Pulse
Sometimes there's no easy way out.
Victor hates his life. He has no friends, gets beaten up at school, and his parents are always criticizing him. Tired of feeling miserable, Victor takes a bottle of his mother's sleeping pills—only to wake up in the hospital.
Bull is angry, and takes all of his rage out on Victor. That makes him feel better, at least a little. But it doesn't stop Bull's grandfather from getting drunk and hitting him. So Bull tries to defend himself with a loaded gun.
When Victor and Bull end up as roommates in the same psych ward, there's no way to escape each other or their problems. Which means things are going to get worse—much worse—before they get better…. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Like many readers, my enjoyment of a book is strongly influenced by my mood. I happen to prefer books that match my current state of emotions. If I’m happy, I want something light and fluffy. If I’m depressed, I want a dark novel. I picked up Cracked three days after some jerk stole my purse right in front of me. I had taken the day off work to go to the DMV, the Social Security Office, two banks, etc. Needless to say, I was angry. It could not have been a better time to read Cracked.
Victor and Bull’s lives are both full of injustice. Their home lives are nightmarish. Bull’s mother seemingly loves her addictions more than her son. His grandfather is a mean violent drunk, and he’s drunk most of the time. Victor’s parents are prominent and wealthy. They want Victor to be seen and not heard (preferably not seen either) so he won’t disturb their fun. Understandably, both boys are miserable. They act out their sorrows in different ways. Victor wallows and Bull hits the defenseless.
Much of this book is not happy, not at all. Walton does a fabulous job of writing in such a way that the reader feels the characters’ anger and despair. It’s a simple yet hard-hitting prose. The book flows very quickly. In fact, it only took me a few hours to read.
It would be easy to hate Bull given how he played a large role in Victor’s desire to commit suicide. And Bull’s actions don’t help his case. But I didn’t hate him. I liked and pitied him, despite disliking many of the things he did. It’s amazing what a difference living in a person’s head can make of your view of him. Victor also could have turned into a completely sympathetic character. I certainly felt bad for his low self esteem and loveless family, but the author also showcased his actions in the hospital as being less than perfect. Both Bull and Victor were layered characters who had the potential to be good characters. Sometimes they made good choices and sometimes they made bad ones.
The plot was slightly predicable, but not as predicable as I thought it would be. I don’t want to say too much about it. I liked the development of Bull and Victor’s relationship as roommates in the hospital. It felt realistic given their past together. The resolution of Bull’s family problems was a little unrealistic, but not out of the realm of possibility. Victor’s parents were so terrible that I had trouble believing that anyone could actually act that way, but unfortunately, I imagine these people do exist.
Cracked is the perfect punchingbag. After three hundred pages of intense anger, despair, and eventually hope, I felt like my own emotions had the opportunity to be let out. It’s not the type of book that will stick with me for years after I read it or that I’ll want to re-read, but it fit the moment perfectly. It is a solid, well-written issues novel.