The Crazy Horse Electric Game, published in 1987, is a coming-of-age story that combines elements of sports, family dysfunction, physical disability, and social issues but also manages to infuse humor into tragic circumstances. Author Chris Crutcher specializes in young adult fiction and often draws inspiration from his work as a child and family therapist as well as his desire to give teens a dose of truth about the real world.
Crutcher received the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Award for his young-adult writings, which, as Edwards Award committee chair Joan Atkinson told Betty Carter in School Library Journal Online, “bring to life the contemporary teen world including its darker side.” The protagonist of The Crazy Horse Electric Game, Willie, lives a sheltered and somewhat charmed existence until circumstances force him to embark on a journey in order to discover how to live life under a completely different set of rules. When Willie leaves the small town of Coho, Montana, he’s confronted with difficult situations that test his resilience yet also show him that he does have power and influence over his world.
The novel is told from the point of view of Willie, which reflects the influence that Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird had on Crutcher. He admits that the strength of the main character’s voice is unforgettable, which serves to make the novel synonymous with the character. Ultimately, Crutcher began writing The Crazy Horse Electric Game because he wanted to tell some silly jokes. However, the story of Willie’s journey does much more than provide comic relief. As Crutcher explains to Betty Carter in School Library Journal Online, it “give[s] hope to young adults struggling with the eternal questions of who they are and where they belong.”