I Crawl Through It

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
I Crawl Through It Book Poster Image
Bizarre, brilliant, poignant tale of resilient teens.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some brief facts relating to biology such as the parts of the digestive system and a labeled diagram of internal organs. Definitions of some scientific terms. Some parts of a helicopter. Characters and themes from the movie AmadeusOverall a good way to introduce teens to prominent ideas and themes in magical realism, surrealism, and allegory.

Positive Messages

Somewhere in every mind is an opening: Crawl through it. Nothing is perfect; the world will have problems forever, so we have to come to terms with that. We should pay close attention to what's happening around us, but we probably won't. Some things are true because we believe them to be true.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The only poor behavior modeled by the four main teen characters is frequent use of strong language, which adult characters including parents and school staff members also use. Otherwise the teens are smart but traumatized. In the surreal world they inhabit, it's hard to be sure which of their actions are allegorical and which really happen, but all model remarkable resilience and coping. Over the course of the novel they all move toward being able to face the world as it is, as adults.


Past traumas hinted at or mentioned include abuses such as scorching with cigarettes, rape resulting in pregnancy, and being beaten with a frying pan. A high school receives bomb threats daily, and teens frequently think about being blown up at any moment. Blood is mentioned a couple of times. A poem alludes to rape and pregnancy. One or two mentions of punching or hitting. 


Several kisses, none described in detail. Body parts such as scrotum and clitoris mentioned. Erection alluded to. Herpes and teen pregnancy mentioned. A teen has sex with a middle-aged man but it's not directly narrated; they mention not being "that good of a lay." Teens talk infrequently about having sex. One mention of visiting a porn Web site. Important characters and one important event include nudity; being naked is mentioned a lot, but nothing's described and the characters aren't fazed by it. One character's basement is used as a sex-fantasy dungeon by her parents; noises coming from it are mentioned.


Frequently by adults and teens: "f--k" and variations, "balls," "bastard," "s--t" and variations including "bulls--t," "slut" and "slutty," "d--k," "bitchy," "dumbass," "ass," "hell," "damn." A chapter title includes the phrase "little s--t."


Hilton Hotel location in a few brief scenes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A fictional TV character's drunkenness mentioned. Stanzi's parents spend all their time at the neighborhood bar. A couple of brief scenes take place in a bar; an adult orders "a double." A teen mentions parents passing around joints at parties. Getting stoned and drunk in the past mentioned. Several mentions of cigarettes, smoking, and electronic cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Crawl Through It is about teens coping with mature themes of loneliness, trauma, guilt, fear, and anxiety, to name only a bit of what's going on. Award-winning author A.S. King (Ask the Passengers) brings surreal elements more to the forefront than in past novels, so it's a good way to get teens thinking about surrealism, magical realism, and allegory in literature. Strong language is frequently used by adults and teens, most often "s--t," "f--k," and variations of each. Sexual content is infrequent: A few kisses, nudity, and body parts are mentioned, but none is described in detail. Violence is mostly past trauma: One teen was raped by a boy she was dating, and the rapist put boastful photos of the incident on Facebook; child abuse is mentioned or alluded to and described vaguely; blood is mentioned a few times.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKjbartolotta November 24, 2015

Challenging, strange and compassionate

AS King is not you typical YA writer, and this is not you typical YA book. Surrealistic and disjointed, it takes on a lot of difficult issues in teen's liv... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCelty April 1, 2018

I crawl through it

The book is surreal, but magical. It's about a girl who swallowed herself, a girl who lies to protect herself, a boy who builds an invisible helicopter, an... Continue reading

What's the story?

Stanzi is exceptionally good at dissection and never takes off her lab coat. Gustav is building an invisible helicopter. China is inside out, and Lansdale's hair can grow by the foot. Added to the inner turmoil of each are the daily bomb threats at their Pennsylvania high school -- some days even multiple bomb threats. Can they find a way to crawl through past trauma, daily drudgery, and constantly feeling like they're about to explode?

Is it any good?

A.S. King brilliantly probes the anxiety and loneliness of adolescence as bizarrely and delicately as her narrator Stanzi dissects frogs. The veteran author has really nailed what it's like to live with constant fear, unsure of the one you love, and unable to fight back against your inner demons. Surrealist elements are strongly at the forefront, keeping the reader as off guard as each of the four protagonists feels. Teens who like to look at the world through a strange and often-changing lens will love following the four teens' twisting paths, and even those who don't like what surrealism they've been exposed to so far may see it in a whole new, strange, relatable light.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how violent events around the country and the world affect our daily lives. Does your school have frequent drills, or has it taken any other measures to try to protect students from mass violence? Do they make you feel safer?

  • Have you read any other books with surrealist elements? How does this book compare? How do the bizarre or magical aspects of the story affect you as you're reading?

  • Stanzi talks about each character choosing a battle to fight, such as her own battle of remembering what she wants to forget. Which of these battles would yours be, or would it be something else?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and coming-of-age stories

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