June 11, 2019

A.S. King: "I Crawl Through It"

Title: I Crawl Through It [on Amazonon Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: A.S. King [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2015
Age: 14+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Bold and unique. Despite the experimental, surrealistic style, provides a compassionate - and deep down, passionate - look at the lives of its characters.
Cons: Not particularly accessible if you're looking for a straight-up story. The symbolism is not always clear.
WARNING! There's talk about rape, though it happened off-screen. Hints at mature themes like bondage and pedophilia.
Will appeal to: Those who enjoy experimental narrative with a heart.

Blurb: Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening. So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will even build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away...but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: There's no denying that A.S. King is one of the most daring authors in the YA scene nowadays. You may not agree with everything she says, but she never fails to make a mark. Fair warning...her books are becoming more and more surrealistic. I'll admit not completely understanding this one, but that didn't prevent me from loving it. Here goes...


ICTI is, first and foremost, a story about being teens in a world that at best doesn't care, turns its head the other way, or isn't equipped to help them (parents and teachers included), and at worst hurts them (sometimes unwittingly), damages them, or predates their feelings - and their bodies. OK...let's address the elephant in the room: this is not your average contemporary book - nor even your average magical-realistic book. But to me, the surrealism filter actually enhances the punch that these kids' stories pack, the same way as the short sentences this book is written in not only suit the narrative, but in this case, end up being more poignant and raw that any lyrical prose. (The book also includes several poems by the girl who swallowed herself, China, that fit the same bill). Of course, this is a love-it or hate-it style. However, you can't deny that ICTI is surrealistic in a way that's still able to root its characters and make them real. You can argue that you end up loving them more with your head than with your heart, so to speak (at least that's how I feel...more or less - though China almost made me cry the first time I read the book), but it doesn't mean that they don't leave a mark, and you can still feel the author's genuine compassion for them and share it. And if you're an adult who still retains some decency, maybe hung your head in shame, because you ARE a big part of the problem just by pretending not to see.


ICTI is, essentially, a girls' story - and of course I don't mean it's a story for girls.
I just mean that the only male main character (Gustav) is also the only one who doesn't get a POV...although he builds the invisible helicopter that fuels (no pun intended) so much of the narrative, and provides one of its most powerful symbols. The three girls, however (Stanzi, China and Lansdale), not only cope with (or try to hide) different traumas/insecurities/anxieties, but by finally acknowledging them, they become less judgmental, more compassionate, and more open with one another. It's a subtle shift, but it's there. In this, ICTI is one step ahead from Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, which aims at being a feminist pamphlet but sports a protagonist who slut-shames her supposed best friend (though she seems to soften a bit towards the end). It's true that China uses the S-word in one of the first chapters ("China Knowles—ThursdayIt's True"), but she seems far more self-conscious about it than Glory was:
"I think I'm becoming good friends with Lansdale Cruise. Before, I thought she was just like one of my old slutty friends. Oxymoron. I can't really call them my friends if I'm simultaneously calling them slutty, can I?"
You could say that Stanzi, China and Lansdale, for all their differences (the only thing they have in common are oblivious/immature/self-centered parents), ultimately complete and/or find strength in each other, and that's more than you can say about a lot of female characters.


I already mentioned the presence of a few symbols in ICTI. If you surf the net, you'll find a number of different interpretations for them - and it's all right. A fixed symbol, one that only stands for a particular thing, would probably be out of place in modern literature...not to mention, there are probably as many interpretations (or shades of them) as there are readers. I must admit, though, that I don't know what to make of the bush man, one of the side characters. I won't spoil the book for you, but he walks a fine line between creepy/crazy and friendly/helpful (at least until later in the book), and his relationship with the four teens puzzles me. The bush man does set part of the story in motion, and is involved in a few pivotal incidents, but even after a second read, I found myself at loss about him - and I suspect it's not by chance that I wasn't able to find any reviews hazarding a guess about what he stands for. So, what I mean is - if you decide to read this book, be prepared to scratch your head at times, or simply accept things as they are...and you'll be rewarded with a poignant story that will make you see things (and teens, and adults) in a new light. And that's more than you can say about a lot of books.

For quotes from this book click here.
For more Contemporary/Contemporary with a Twist books click here.


  1. I started this one a few years ago and set it aside. I'm a super lazy reader lol & have to be in the mood for these kinds of books.

    I probably should have stuck with it since it comes together. I'm not sure if I brought it with me for the move.

    I'm glad you mostly like her books even if you don't always agree or understand everything :-)

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. Her books are a bit demanding, but at the same time, her characters are a driving force. If you still have the book laying somewhere, give it a second chance. I'm sure you won't regret it.

  2. Your opening statement sums up why I keep coming back for more King. Her books are weird and wonderful and thought provoking. She likes to make you uncomfortable, but it's the discomfort that forces you to think about what she has written. AND, her use of magical realism is nothing short of brilliant, in my opinion.

    1. Yours is a great minireview for the author's work as a whole!

  3. I've only read two books by A.S. King, and one I really need to re-read. I read The Dust of 100 Dogs YEARS ago, and I've mostly forgotten what it was about, and why I enjoyed it so much. Everybody Sees the Ants didn't really work for me. I'm glad you were still able to enjoy this one even though it felt more surrealistic!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

    1. King is definitely not for everyone. I love magical realism, but her books are a step ahead of that sometimes LOL. It would be fun if you reread 100 Dogs now (I haven't read it, nor have I read Ants), just to see if it holds up!

  4. I'm always intrigued by experimental, surrealistic, symbolic kinda books. I don't read them because I never understand them lol, but I'm still tempted sometimes. I like the idea of authors doing something different to portray emotions and messages in a different way.

    Anyway, it's nice to see a story about girl bonding with girls! And I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much :-)

    1. I'm sure you would understand them fine! Maybe they wouldn't/don't work for you because you prefer a more straightforward narrative, but sometimes a story told that way lacks the emotional punch a different approach provides. To me anyway LOL. I'm a complicated old girl! 😂


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