Sunday, February 5, 2012
Chris Crutcher's Chinese Handcuffs is written in both narrative and letters written to Dillon's dead brother Preston.
Dillon's brother Preston was a troubled teen (well, it never states his age that I recall but he is 2 years older than Dillon). After a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed, Dillon turned more to drugs and a motorcycle gang. Unable to fight his demons, he killed himself in front of Dillon. The book deals with Dillon trying to figure out his life. Everything has changed for him. His mother left and took his younger sister Christy. It is now just Dillon and his dad.
Preston's death left behind feelings of anger, depression, sadness and one other thing, a baby. Dillon has had a crush on Stacy for years. Stacy only had eyes for Preston though. After Preston's death, Stacy goes away to North Dakota to "heal". The story when she comes back is that a cousin of hers had a baby out of wedlock and was going to put it up for adoption. Stacy convinced her parents to adopt the baby. You find out (although it is no real surprise) that the baby is really Stacy's and Preston's.
Then there is Jennifer. Dillon's friend and major basketball superstar at the high school, Jennifer is battling her own demons. Jennifer has been sexually abused by her biological father and is now being sexually abused by her step-father.
Dillon works through his grief over Preston, anger over Jennifer's abuse and love of Preston and Stacy's baby throughout the course of the year. Jennifer tries to work through her fear on the basketball court and Stacy comes clean over the intercom at school about the parentage of the baby.
While there is no pat "happy ending" there is some resolution. Dillon finally puts to rest his anger with his brother; helps Jennifer; loves Stacy's baby; and gets his dad to talk to him about life.