Blake Nelson's new young adult novel Destroy All Cars is about a high schooler named James who wants to destroy anti-environmental corporate culture - and maybe ask some girls out. It's funny and engaging - check out this excerpt.
Published last year by Scholastic, the book is now out in paperback.
From Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson
Gabe and I talking in the back of AP English today. Gabe wants me to go out with Lucy. Or at least hang out with her somehow. He thinks I need a girlfriend. He's been reminding me of how more popular I was when I was with Sadie. People knew me, talked to me; I did stuff, I went places. Now, he says, all I do is sulk and stay up too late and scribble in my notebooks until midnight at Denny's. This is true, but I reminded him that Karl Marx wrote his manifesto in the London Public Library surrounded by bums and weirdos. He thinks that is great but that Karl Marx didn't end up that great. And anyway, Karl Marx didn't go to our high school, which has it's own contexts and social norms.
I'm thinking about it. Lucy that is. The truth is I have never asked a girl out on a Classic American Teenage Date. Sadie and I never did that. We didn't have to. Also, I have to say, I am not sure Lucy is right for me. She's is a normal person. Unfortunately because I have cut holes in my sweater and not joined any clubs or talked to anyone all year, I can't think of what other girls I could hang out with. I have, by my dress and actions, declared myself to be some sort of fringe, literary, intellectual type. Now I must face the consequences.
In the meantime, I walk around in the rain and I think about population. That is the key to all our problems. People say, "What can I do to help the environment?" Answer: not exist. Nothing would be better for the planet then us not being on it. We have spread over the earth like a great rash, like a great wave of killer insects. We annihilate every living thing in our path, devour resources, rip up the earth to get the oil and the gold and whatever other crap we think we need. We have showed no mercy to animals, plant life, fish, insects. We have even destroyed segments of our own species, the ones too gentle to resist our most brutal impulses. We have ravaged the planet with our insane lust and greed, everywhere leaving behind horrendous pollution, toxic waste, and lethal contamination. We have shat in our own soup bowl. And now we are trying to eat around it.
Gabe is right. I don't look so good. I am pale and I have acne. That is common for people my age. I am evolving. I am arguably "a man" already. In some cultures a seventeen-year-old is an adult. In our culture, I am considered a child. I do not feel like a child. I look at myself in the mirror and I want to lead a revolution. I want to tear down my society and start over. But maybe every seventeen year old thinks that.
One thing is for sure. People are not going to change. Our single worst problem is population growth but adults are not capable of not having children. Adult CONSUMER AMERICANS are not capable of controlling any strong impulse they experience. Kids are cute. They must have them. The neighbors have kids. They must have them. Mrs. Jones is bored at the tennis club and she saw another woman with a baby. She must have one. This is how we operate. WE SEE SHINY OBJECTS, CARS, PUPPIES, KITTENS, LITTLE BABIES, WE MUST HAVE THEM. I think most adults figure someone else will deal with the big problems. Someone else will figure it out. And if they can't, well, we might as well live it up for now. Nothing we can do. Might as well get ours, while there's still something to get.
Sometimes I wonder about my relationship with Sadie. We were like brother and sister, always bickering, but deeply joined. What would Lucy and I be like? How do you act around a girl who's not that smart but has a hot body? I don't know. I know very little about dealing with girls. I watch other guys operate. They take girls to parties. They dance with the girls, drink beer with the girls, throw the girls in the pool. Then they make out with them. How do they know how to do this?
It's true about Denny's Restaurant. I come here all the time. I'm here right now. It's dark here, warm, there's lots of carpet. It's like being inside a sponge. The waitresses bring me coffee the minute I sit down. They know me here. They know my type: the weird kid writing poetry, or drawing wizards, or writing Star Trek fan fiction. I hate being a kid. Are any of these thoughts I have even logical? I do not know. At the same time, I look around at Denny's and I see the people that hang out here. Truckers. Salesmen. Divorcees. The common people. The people who punch the clock, who get by paycheck to paycheck. I am already smarter than them. I think I'm smarter than everyone. I'm smarter than the government that's for sure. But what can you do about anything? It takes a lifetime to get yourself in a position to do something. And by then you're totally corrupted.
Population. There's too many of us. But whenever anything happens, what is our first response? SAVE THE PEOPLE. A bear wanders into a neighborhood, lost and confused because there is no more wilderness left for him to go to. What do the authorities do? They shoot him. A coyote gets stuck in someone's backyard? They shoot him. A wolf in the town dump. The local deputies draw straws for the privilege of shooting him. In any situation where a human and a wild animal come together, and where there is even the remotest possibility that the human might be inconvenienced, the animal is "destroyed". There are 300 million people in the United States. There are probably less than 30 thousand bears. But the bear dies. The thinking is we are humans, we are precious, we are above the other creatures. But there are too many of us already. We are choking the world to death. Shouldn't we, logically, be willing to sacrifice a few humans to save a bear? A bear that we put in this situation in the first place?
Basically the solution is: we have to stop having so many children and driving gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles around. But we won't.
I got Lucy's number from a friend. I might call her tomorrow. I don't know. I look like crap lately. What would I do with her anyway? Take her to Denny's? "You should try the Grand Slam breakfast. I hear it's great."
Want to read more? You can order the book now in paperback!