Goodreads | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble
YA, Contemporary, 288 pages, Arthur A. Levine Books
- Series: stand-alone
- Pub date: January 1st 2012
- Disclosure: Received a copy in my ALAN box of books. Thanks!
TWO SISTERS: Kate is bound for Stanford and an M.D. -- if her family will let her go. Mary wants only to stay home and paint. When their loving but repressive father dies, they must figure out how to support themselves and their mother, who is in a permanent vegetative state, and how to get along in all their uneasy sisterhood.The Long...
THREE YOUNG MEN: Then three men sway their lives: Kate's boyfriend Simon offers to marry her, providing much-needed stability. Mary is drawn to Marcos, though she fears his violent past. And Andy tempts Kate with more than romance, recognizing her ambition because it matches his own.
ONE AGONIZING CHOICE: Kate and Mary each find new possibilities and darknesses in their sudden freedom. But it's Mama's life that might divide them for good -- the question of *if* she lives, and what's worth living for.
Some authors write in a fantasy world, others in the real one, and the genre lines aren't as clear-cut as you'd think. Even in her contemporary work, Melina Marchetta writes gorgeous worlds I wish I could live in; the fantasy of Neil Gaiman is so real it hurts. Irises falls strictly into the real-world category, with ordinary lives and ordinary problems. It's a lovely, quiet story that implies much more than it actually says.
The conflict we are given is simple: two sisters' decision on whether or not to remove their mother--and sole surviving parent--from life support. This will-they-or-won't-they drives the book, through Kate's horrible guilt about going to Stanford, and Mary's refusal to let go. We're left waiting with bated breath for so long, however, that I can't help but feel a little let down at the payoff.
The most delightful thing about the book, for me, was the character of Kate; mostly because I am a Kate. The world is full of Kates--overachieving, responsible, repressed--and though we don't all have the same problems, we deal with them in much the same way: we pretend we don't have them at all. Watching Kate try to stay strong through one of the most horrible and difficult decisions imaginable is an honest delight to read.
Stork has a talent for capturing ordinary moments and ordinary lives and somehow making them fit a narrative arc. But, as I said before, it's almost too understated, too true-to-life, and never quite seems to find its oomph. After Kate's romantic arc builds for nearly two hundred pages; then concludes with such a cold disappointment I was left wondering if there was a scene I had missed. Mary reaches her revelation in the end with an eerily quiet calm. Situations resolve themselves, and there's no climax to speak of.
Still, it's a worthwhile read, for Stork's sensitive treatment of Hispanic culture in the U.S. especially. He's one of the most iconic writers of color working in YA today, and it's easy to see why--instead of race and ethnicity being the focus of the story, it's just one facet of a well-polished whole. I wish Irises had captured me more, but in the end, I can't complain about the time this book and I spent together. There are much worse ways to spend an afternoon.
...and the Short:
A quiet, understated story that never seems to reach its full potential, but is lovely anyway.
The Final Word: Liked it.