Monday, May 25, 2009

Review: Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson

Tags: YA, activism, consumerism, environmentalism, angst

Rating: 4 out of 5


High school junior James Hoff hates Consumer America. He is against gas-guzzling, exhaust-emitting cars; malls; colleges; and pointless food-drive-running, fundraising do-gooders like his ex-girlfriend Sadie Kinnell, whom he still unfortunately has feelings for.

James exercises his feelings through his writing, but what happens when that’s not enough? When his life crosses paths with Sadie’s once more, this time in a fight to save a local pond from development, James can no longer hang on to his pessimistic attitude if he intends of growing up and giving himself a purpose in life.


Told in English essays, screenplay dialogue exchanges, and diary-like entries, DESTROY ALL CARS is a unique approach to the development of a young and interesting pessimist. This book’s strengths lie in its writing and its protagonist. The variety of writing formats perfectly yet uniquely captures the confused, angsty, and passionate mind of a teenage boy and makes for great reading.

To avoid falling into the pit of believing that the supporting characters are underdeveloped in this novel, it’s important to keep in mind that DESTROY ALL CARS closely follows the thoughts and beliefs of its protagonist, James. We see the world as James see it—see it in all of its screwed-up, apathetic, apocalyptic anti-glory. James cannot fully understand the motivations and actions of the people in his life, and thus, neither can we. And that is perfectly okay.

James is far from being the most attractive or likable protagonist ever. He doesn’t hesitate to criticize others’ charitable acts as useless, yet fails to do anything productive himself. It is his hypocrisy, however, that makes him appeal to me: the world is full of well-intentioned hypocrites, not perfect knights in shining armor. James’ flaws make him a realistic, believable, and, ultimately, enjoyable protagonist.

DESTROY ALL CARS is not for the light-hearted; it challenges you to think about universal environmental issues and the sense of uncertainty and inadequacy one experiences in adolescence. Nevertheless, it is a great read, a far cry from other, often vapid or painfully awkward novels that try to give you glimpse into a teenage boy’s mind.

Similar Authors
Don Calame (Swim the Fly)
Laurie Halse Anderson
Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

A huge thank you to Sheila Marie at Scholastic for sending me a copy to review!


  1. This looks like a book that I would L.O.V.E. Thanks for the review!

  2. Ooh this sounds good. Another one to add to my list!

    And I see you're reading Sprout! I really enjoyed it :)

  3. Interesting review - thanks!
    (And I really enjoyed Sprout too!)

  4. The synopsis sounds fun, but I don't think I'm really much interested. Thanks for the review, Steph.


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