Originally posted at my blog Chasing Empty Pavements
I remember the first time I picked up a Jodi Picoult book before she was truly famous and fell in love with her writing. I've been on of her biggest fans since then but honestly, this book really took her down a few notches in my favorite author stature. In true Jodi Picoult fashion, this book was written extremely well and it had it's fair share of "twists." Also in Picoult's fashion, she takes a huge ethical dilemma/issue and runs with it. Usually, I'm ALL about this. I've loved almost all of her books...however, I'm really disappointed in this one. This book had the most under developed and annoying characterization in all of Picoult's books. I'm so sad that it had to come to writing this review like this.
The Good: The one thing I always know about a Jodi Picoult is that the writing will be done well. Even if the story itself or the characters don't live up to expectations, her writing is almost always flawlessly done. That's why it's so easy to continue reading a book that you're not sure you're enjoying because the writing compels you too. I do love that she takes an all too real dilemma--the decision to take a loved one off of life support or not and turns it into a moral debate. The two conflicting sides DOES make for good drama...it would in real life too! The scenery painted in the novel is quite beautiful, I especially enjoyed getting the descriptions of the wolves. The one aspect of the main character, Cara's personality that I loved was her determination to prove people wrong...to believe that against all odds, her dad was going to survive. I could see myself in her when she was doing all the research to take back to the doctors to show them that her father really did have a chance to survive. I really enjoyed Joe's character. He was really the best of the book in my opinion.
The Bad: Oh where to start. Firstly, this is the first of Picoult's novels that I HATED the main characters. Both of them. The minor characters were the only saving grace of this novel as far as characters go. Joe, Cara's stepfather is probably one of my favorite characters and all though he has one of the least amount of retail space in the novel, he is the character that's developed the most. That being said, I'm SO disappointed in Cara and Edward. I'll start with Cara-- she is a 17 year old girl who idolizes her father and is also involved in the car accident that lands him in a vegetative/coma like state. Her dialogue, her internal musings and her reasoning were beyond immature and annoying, I couldn't take it. Picoult wants to paint her as this daughter that would do anything for her father and is mature enough to be his legal guardian and make a huge medical decision on his behalf...but the way she is portrayed in the novel, I would trust her to pick out my clothes for work. She's just... all wrong. I don't know if Picoult intentionally wrote her so conflicting, but it doesn't really match up with the way we are supposed to perceive her. Then there's Edward... he was like a slimy bug crawling all over my skin. I really did not like him at all. I didn't find any redeeming qualities about him because I didn't believe him. He claims throughout the novel that he is only following through on his father's wishes (from a one time conversation when he was 15) saying that he knows what his father would want. I just don't buy it. Even in the novel, the other characters comment on how his being away for 6 years, especially after they'd had a fight and the fact that they were never close did not exactly paint him as the prodigal son and they are right. I just don't believe that a judge or whomever, would allow this guy to come back and make all these medical decisions based on that little bit of knowledge. He was so flat as a character too...whenever he would speak of his anger towards his father and turn around and talk about the fact that he just wanted to protect Cara and just wanted to honor his father's wishes, I found myself rolling my eyes. I didn't buy it for one minute. Both Cara and Edward seemed highly underdeveloped and just... flat. I couldn't relate to either of them and felt so irritated that by the end of the novel, I was just glad it was over so I didn't have to listen to their inner thoughts anymore. The next thing is almost a conflicting emotion. On the one hand, I LOVE when Picoult changes POV's each chapter. One of my favorite things about her novels, however, this time we get a POV from Luke, the father that is in a vegetative/coma like state. Honestly, it really did nothing for me. It didn't add anything to the plot or progression of the story. I didn't feel like I "knew" Luke any better by reading his little excerpts and instead of flowing with the rest of the book... it jolted me out the book when it happened and it took me a while to get back into it. Usually Picoult reserves a pretty big punch for her ending and 99% of the time it delivers, this time however, the ending of this novel was not very climatic, not very shocking and kind of lackluster to be honest. I actually expected this one from the beginning of the novel. It just did NOT hold the kind of power her other novel endings have.
Overall, I'm really sad and disappointed this book was not all that great for me. I love Picoult and I LOVED her novel before this so I was hoping this one would be the same but I suppose you can't win them all. I really even can't recommend this one, and that's saying a lot because I almost always recommend Picoult even if the book wasn't the greatest. This one I cannot confidently recommend though. I'm giving it a D+