Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone
By Adele Griffin
Published 2014 by Soho Teen

Addison Stone is a brilliant young artist, living a fast-paced life in New York City. Or she was - until her death. Addison Stone was also a troubled young women, who may have heard voices and started a vicious revenge war with an ex-boyfriend. So what really happened the night Addison Stone died? Adele Griffin interviews those who knew her best and attempts to uncover the truth.

I'd heard lots of praise for this novel both before and after its publication, including some discussion as a potential Printz winner. It sounded really interesting and I know Griffin is an acclaimed author, so I was eager to check it out. A review copy showed up at my library in a box of donations, so I figured I'd try to squeeze it in.

Here's my problem: I love the way this book is written, but I don't love this book. I think the documentary novel is extremely interesting and also a feat of literary talent. How do you create enough unique voices to populate such a story? How do you balance the need for many character voices with the probability of that number becoming too many? How do you keep a reader engaged over the course of a novel that is essentially just a bunch of dialogue? I can't answer any of these questions, but perhaps Griffin could.

I thought, narratively and stylistically, this book was a winner. Griffin does a fantastic job of piecing together Addison's story and making the reader believe that it might be true (though I don't know how realistic a teen art sensation is). It makes the reader ask a lot of questions: how would I be remembered? What would the people I leave behind say about me? Why, when Addison is such a talented artist, is she most remembered for her notorious relationships? How do you help someone who doesn't think they need help? How much do you let other people define you? Lots of great stuff for discussion here.

Unfortunately, I just didn't care about Addison so much. To me, it was obvious what had happened to her, perhaps because I've experienced life with someone similar. And, though I love the choice of a documentary novel, it likely impacted my ability to care about Addison - I didn't really get to hear her voice and her feelings. Perhaps I would have connected with her more in a traditionally told narrative - I don't know. Another big part of the problem for me is the art itself. Several of Addison's works are included in the book - and I thought they were all terrible. So, to get me to believe that this girl was the next big artist, it was too much of a stretch with the art provided.

Overall, a really interesting concept and stylistically and philosophically stunning, but a bit of a let-down.

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