The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

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Image Credit: http://www.amazon.com/The-Unfinished-Life-Addison-Stone/dp/1616953608

Started: October 8, 2015

Finished: October 11, 2015

Category/Genre: Narrative Fiction, Mystery, Faux-Biography, Visual Art in Contemporary Fiction

Published: 2014

Awards: A Capitol Choices Selection; An Autumn 2014 Kids’ Indie Next List Selection; A Junior Library Guild Selection; A School Library Journal Top Fiction Pick; A Romantic Times Top Pick and Finalist for Book of the Year; A Booklist Top Ten Arts Book for Youth; A Chicago Public Library Best-of-the-Best YA Book of the Year; An Amazon Best YA Book of the Year; A YALSA 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection

Pages: 241

Themes: Coming of Age, Mental Illness, Identity Crisis, Interpersonal Relationships

Rating: 5 Stars

Age/Interest Range: 9th Grade and Up

The visual art component of this book is as confusing (at first) as it is engagingly imaginative. The first page is a photo of a New York Daily News article, reporting on the recent and mysterious death of Addison Stone. Following this image is a prologue by author Adele Griffin, in which she explains the purpose of the novel: To interview people from Addison’s life and to research what lead up to her untimely and unexplained death.

Confused yet? I know. It took me a moment to figure this out.

This IS a work of fiction. You will have to remind yourself of this, at least thru the first 10 pages. On page two, Adele Griffin (yes, the author) puts herself into the tale, and by doing so, (what seems like) a very real story begins to unfold.

Momentum is gained in the first pages when the interviewees describe a fight that happens at Addison’s funeral. The only thing anyone at the funeral can agree on is that it’s very weird that two particular boys (past love interests of Stone’s) do not make an appearance to pay their respects. This leads the reader to wonder who are these two boys, and did one of them kill Addison?

Via private interviews, Griffin unveils Addison to the reader. We hear from old friends, new friends, boyfriends, her family, fans of her artwork, her mortician… Add to this, the installations of visual art: Addison on art magazine covers, images of her artwork, candid phone pics. (All of these images are cited with things like “courtesy of the estate of Addison Stone,” or whoever owns/has agreed to submit the images.) On-page video clips of Addison herself lets the reader hear from her point of view.  The clips, the numerous interviews, the cited images –  all these things fuse together something fresh and idiosyncratic, to say the least.

Each person interviewed describes Addison a bit differently, however strangely enough, the different explanations seem to describe a very real Addison. She was carefree, she was controlling. She was generous, but she was a thief. She was extremely guarded, but she was natural at one-on-one. These conflicting personalities were what seemed to fuel her artwork. When her 1st grade teacher asked her how she created an astonishing drawing, Addison tells her, “It’s from behind my eyelids.” At 6 years old, she claimed to see more behind her eyelids than what’s in front of them.

At 16, she starts to hear the voice of Ida in her head, which leads her to attempt suicide. After rehabilitation, her parents’ ignorance and dysfunction does not allow them to understand her artist potential. When she returns to school, Addison starts entering art contests and wins. With the help of some teachers, she gets into a New York Art Institute at age 17. What follows is the teetering balance of  her art, her relationships, her troubled mind, and her very public reputation.

You will pick up this book because it’s very different. You will gobble down the whole thing because you won’t be able to help yourself. After learning about Addison’s life so intimately, you must find out what happened to her on that night and who is to blame.

Overall Literary Merit: Because of unique format and credible honors/awards, yes there is decent amount Literary merit.

Classroom Possibilities: The title definitely earns a place on high school library and classroom library bookshelves. It would be a great title for the student who “just hasn’t read anything good lately.” This will get them back on track! The very cool visual art format itself is Lit classroom discussion worthy, to say the least.

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