Crowe, Chris. Death Coming Up the Hill. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing: New York, NY, 2014. ISBN 9780544302150
Ashe is a seventeen year old boy in 1968. The Vietnam war is in full swing. But that’s not the only war in his life. His parents are as opposite as two people could be. His dad is a racist and his mom is a peace activist hippie. That being, they are constantly at war with each other, and Ashe caught in the middle. With the help of his history teacher and the beautiful new girl whose brother is over in Vietnam, he starts to understand his world and the world around him a little more.
This book has me in awe. I was halfway through the book when I realized that it was written entirely in haiku form. That itself is an incredible feat. Writing a verse novel is so difficult. It’s even more so when it’s not free verse and has structure and rules, such as the haiku. To pull this off takes incredible skill as a writer. That in itself is remarkable.
The pace is very fast. I was through the book in no time at all. It’s a quick read, but very powerful.
The story itself is enjoyable and honest. I really felt for poor Ashe. His world is crumbling around his feet and he finds himself struggling.
“I spanned the distance
between them like a bombed-out
bridge. The love I had
felt fell into the
gulf between them, and I knew
they loved me, but not
each other. That’s a
crummy thing to learn when you’re
only six years old.”
This passage comes from page 30 and 31. I chose this passage because it was the moment that Ashe’s life changed forever. The moment he realized that his parents didn’t love each other shaped his view of marriage, love, and his parents. I love the language. “Spanned distance” “bombed-out bridge” and “gulf” all tie together to create a beautiful yet horrifying metaphor. This passage also shows how the different haikus tie together to form the story.
From School Library Journal
“It will appeal to fans of novels in verse or to readers with an interest in the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, or American history.”
“The unusual narrative style makes this exploration of Vietnam-era politics at home and abroad readily accessible to struggling readers, while fans of poetry may appreciate the eloquence in its brevity.”
From Kirkus Review
“A memorable / and innovative story / of one wrenching year.”
Other books on Vietnam War:
Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell ISBN 9781416926900
Weeping Under the Same Moon by Jana Laiz ISBN 9780981491004
In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason ISBN 9780060835170
Other books by Chris Crowe:
Mississippi Trial 1955 ISBN 9780142501924
Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of Emmett Till Case ISBN 9780803728042