Albert Borris, July 2009. Owen, Audrey, Jin-Ae and Frank meet online in a chat room about suicide. They form a club of sorts – the Suicide Dogs – and decide to meet up for a tour of famous American gravesites and then end it all in Death Valley. Owen, the narrator, is quiet and nerdy, with an encyclopedic knowledge about celebrity suicides. Audrey is young and attention-seeking with a shaved head and a passion for Kurt Cobain. Jin-Ae is a closeted lesbian who cuts herself to stifle her fears of telling her parents she’s gay. Frank wants desperately to be an athlete but is skinny and clumsy and probably an alcoholic. The road-trip narrative is interspersed with chat room transcripts from before the group met in person, and with lists they make about their trip and their mission: Top Ten Things to Remember about NYC, Top Ten Places to Visit that Aren’t Graves, Top Ten Bizarre Ways to Kill Yourself.
Over the duration of the cross-country trip, there are several random hookups – including Jin-Ae and Frank, oddly enough – and a lot of secrets revealed. Owen witnessed his brother’s death and blames himself. Audrey never really tried to kill herself at all. And Frank has hidden a loaded gun under the front seat of the car.
Crash Into Me starts off slowly – maybe too slowly – but picks up quickly as the characters’ hidden motivations are revealed and as both sexual and emotional tension build from the group’s containment in a car for weeks. The foursome adds more and more side trips to their vacation until we suspect they’re never going to make it to Death Valley at all. The book ends just before they arrive, and Owen makes a final list: My Top Ten Reasons to Live.