01 March 2012

Review: Irises by Francisco X. Stork

Kate and Mary Romero live in the modern world but thanks to their strict upbringing, they have barely been part of it. Their father was the minister of a conservative congregation and sheltered his girls from the evils of the outside world (including the Internet, cell phones, and the mall). Their mother was more understanding and had ambitions for her daughters, but she has been in a persistent vegetative state for a couple of years as the result of a car accident. When their father unexpectedly dies (in the first chapter), the teenagers are left on their own to finish high school, take care of their mother, and decide on their futures.

Although Irises, by Francisco X Stork, is targeted to a teen audience, the novel talks about issues that will resonate with adults. The overriding themes are faith in God, the nature of responsibility, death and dying, ambition, and parenting, and Stork interweaves them to make for a thought-provoking and complex story.

The novel follows the girls, especially Kate, as they transition through their grief to facing the realities of their new situation as virtual orphans and as living in the modern world. Of course, the girls are forced to make an overwhelming number of decisions, and as they weigh their choices, you'll be asking yourself many of the same questions: Should Kate give up her dreams and her college scholarship to stay in El Paso and take care of her sister and mother? Is it okay that Mary accepts this lot as her fate and cannot see any other path? Is it ever right to stop life support for a loved one who will never get better? Is it giving up or an act of love to let someone die? What kind of parent isolates his children from the world they live in: a caring parent or a controlling one? How do we prioritize our obligations to our faith, our family, and ourselves?

These questions do not have easy answers, and Kate and Mary struggle to find solutions, seeking help from friends, their aunt, the church, and social welfare programs. The text drags at times and the ending seemed obvious (the only logical solution?), but Irises will make you think and will open the door to many conversations. Thus the novel is a great choice for book clubs. Note that Irises is not about preaching a particular moral viewpoint; although faith in a Christian God is part of the book, it is not the focus.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Listening Library, 7 hr, 28 min) read by Carrington MacDuffie. My audio review will be available on the AudioFile magazine website. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted each Saturday by Julie from Booking Mama.

Buy Irises at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Scholastic / Arthur A. Levine Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780140070200
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Col (Col Reads) 3/1/12, 6:46 AM  

I often wonder about the lot of children whose parents think they are protecting them from the modern world by sheltering them from it (for example, not allowing kids to ever watch TV). How will they negotiate with technology once they get the chance? This sounds like a very interesting book!

Daryl Edelstein 3/1/12, 8:06 AM  

Sounds like a good book .. and as I know someone who is protecting their child from internet/TV, I think this is a good gift for her

bermudaonion 3/1/12, 8:43 AM  

This sounds like a very thought provoking book!

rhapsodyinbooks 3/1/12, 9:31 AM  

I didn't love the characters in this book, especially not the father or his replacement, The Slimebucket new guy. But I agree this is a fantastic choice for book clubs!

Nise' 3/1/12, 1:56 PM  

I have enjoyed other books by this author and want to read this one too.

Amy @ My Friend Amy 3/1/12, 1:59 PM  

I think you're right that the ending is the only possible one, but the journey to get there was well done, IMO of course! :)

Zibilee 3/1/12, 4:27 PM  

I am quite curious about this book, and aim to read it soon to see what I make of it. I think I can guess what happens in the end, but if the journey there is thought provoking and is emotionally resonant, I will be a happy reader. Awesome review today!

Carole 3/1/12, 4:35 PM  

Will have to put this one onto my "to read" list - thanks

Vasilly 3/1/12, 7:32 PM  

I read Stork's Marcelo in the Real World several years ago and became a huge fan. Irises is on my tbr list now. Great review.

Julie P. 3/1/12, 8:43 PM  

That's a very interesting premise and sounds like a perfect discussion book!

caite 3/2/12, 3:00 PM  

Big question for young people

Amanda 3/2/12, 5:05 PM  

My library doesn't have this one yet, but when they do, I hope they get it in audio too! I definitely need to read this one.

Kailana 3/3/12, 8:11 PM  

I have read another book by Stork and liked it. I plan to read this at some point.

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