Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Multimedia Story With a Vivid Protagonist: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

Publisher: Soho Teen
Release: August 12, 2014
Source: Library
National Book Award-finalist Adele Griffin tells the fully illustrated story of a brilliant young artist, her mysterious death, and the fandom that won't let her go.

From the moment she stepped foot in NYC, Addison Stone’s subversive street art made her someone to watch, and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more. I conducted interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—and retraced the tumultuous path of Addison's life. I hope I can shed new light on what really happened the night of July 28.
—Adele Griffin
To critics, she's an protégé, with artistic ability beyond her years. To her friends, she's a wild child in need of protection, always high on adrenaline and without a healthy sense of fear. To her family, she's the one who got away, leaving small-town Rhode Island for New York City before high school graduation. She's the one and only Addison Stone, 17-year-old art celebrity—and now, a girl who tragically died too young.

But to Adele Griffin, she's an enigma, a mystery, a story waiting to be told. And through interviews, newspaper clippings, and snapshots of Addison's artwork, the author brings the title character to life, creating a fictional tale vivid enough to feel like real investigative journalism.

Addison is a talented artist, readers quickly learn, and The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone proves it by spotlighting images of her work. I don't know who painted Addison's watercolors or scribbled her sketches, but he or she added an engaging edge to the story. While I have read about plenty of teenage artists, few books have provided me the chance to see these characters' projects for myself, and this book's original format makes Addison a more lifelike and believable character. I found myself looking forward to each painting and felt disappointed in the few that were mentioned in the text but not included as an image.

Addison's artistry also shines through in the text portion of this novel, as friends and family tell tales of her adventurous escapades. The protagonist is never afraid to break social customs—or even laws—for the sake of making life more interesting, showing a free spirit typical of a young, passionate artist. I loved reading about each of Addison's wild projects, from swinging on chandeliers to teaming up with graffiti artists, all of which paint her as an intoxicatingly rebellious individual.

More importantly, however, readers learn that Addison is a bit mentally unstable, battling demons and ghosts from her early teens to the day of her death. Anyone who is familiar with Griffin's writing knows that the author can handle mental illness expertly, and The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is no exception. Just like in the author's previous books, the protagonist's disturbed psyche adds a compelling component to the story, leading readers to question what is real and what is imagined and leading Addison closer to her death. However, Addison's mental illness is not merely a plot point; Griffin also sensitively shows the protagonist's struggle to calm the voices in her head and reluctance to take her medication. If I needed any further proof of Griffin's mastery over the mind (which I absolutely did not), the author's latest book would have more than provided it.

Addison's obsession with art combines with her less-than-secure psyche to create not only a plot worth reading, but a character worth remembering. Every Adele Griffin protagonist I have encountered haunts me to this day, but I can tell that Addison will demand a larger share of my memory than the rest. With her eye for color and form, love of New York City, and compulsion toward risk-taking, she is a character the world can neither ignore nor forget.

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