All That I Can Fix – Crystal Chan – Simon Pulse – Published 12 June 2018
In Makersville, Indiana, people know all about Ronney—he’s from that mixed-race family with the dad who tried to kill himself, the pill-popping mom, and the genius kid sister. If having a family like that wasn’t bad enough, the local eccentric at the edge of town decided one night to open up all the cages of his exotic zoo—lions, cheetahs, tigers—and then shoot himself dead. Go figure. Even more proof that you can’t trust adults to do the right thing.
Overnight, news crews, gun control supporters, and gun rights advocates descend on Makersville, bringing around-the-clock news coverage, rallies, and anti-rallies with them. With his parents checked out, Ronney is left tending to his sister’s mounting fears of roaming lions, stopping his best friend from going on a suburban safari, and shaking loose a lonely boy who follows Ronney wherever he goes. Can Ronney figure out a way to hold it together as all his worlds fall apart?
What to say about a book that is one part humorous, two parts ridiculous, and the rest a bundle of important messages, from mental health, stigma, and racism, to gun control and animal cruelty? All That I Can Fix is a novel that faces difficult topics straight on, with an abruptness that is both disconcerting and refreshing.
When the local exotic zoo owner shoots himself and lets loose his animals, Ronney isn’t fazed. What’s a camel on the loose compared to a father who might be continually physically present but never mentally, a mother who doesn’t know how to cope anymore, a sister on the verge of a meltdown, and a list of things he must do to keep the whole family from falling apart?
All That I Can Fix is written in first-person, with Ronney as the narrator. The style is very conversational, as if Ronney is speaking directly to the reader, sharing his story, his view on things and letting the reader inside his world for a short while. It gives the writing style a tell rather than show feel, as if the reader is removed from the action, viewing everything from Ronney’s lens. This is Ronney’s story after all, and he will tell it as he wants to, interpreting it in his own way.
Ronney feels like he is an adult in a boy’s body. He feels isolated from his peers, as they have a ‘normal’ childhood while he must take on more responsibilities. From cleaning up after his father’s attempted suicide to caring for his little sister, Ronney is faced with hard challenges and the consequences of the decisions of the adults around him. However, Ronney’s voice is juvenile. He is internally focused and that comes through very clearly in the story as he struggles with his thoughts, feelings, and what to do with them. He talks about his responsibilities, he compares himself to other teens, he bemoans his parents and their apparent disregard for his needs, and he fees increasingly angry towards them for their choices.
In the chaos that has become his life, Ronney fixates on the things he can fix – the leaking roof, a paint-peeling wall. It is the things that he cannot fix, though, that cause him the most worry. When presented with a young boy who shares his story with Ronney, Ronney is driven to help him. Ronney is the comforter for his friends and sister, yet Ronney isn’t sure how to ask for or accept help in return.
All That I Can Fix touches on many important and timely themes, from gun control to mental health. Yet with so many themes, they are all lightly touched upon rather than deeply investigated. There are no answers presented, just the continuation of Ronney’s story. There is also a detached sense as Ronney retells the events surrounding the escape of the animals, and the ensuring fight surround gun control, animal cruelty. Deaths of both animals and humans are covered with emotionless description, and school lockdowns, police shootings, suicide, and physical abuse are all briefly mentioned with a ‘this is life, it’s just how it is’ acceptance that was at odds with Ronney’s constant turmoil.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Mental health, suicide, missing persons, racism, animal rights, gun control, gun rights, friendship, family, family breakdown, shooting, siblings, grief.
Reading age guide: Ages 13/14 and up.
Advisory: Frequent coarse language, f*** (36), sh** (116), as* and as***** (83), bit** (3), di** (27), pi**(35). Mature themes, suicide, shootings, death and animal cruelty.
Published: 12 June 2018 by Simon Pulse.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 320 pages.