HOTHOUSE by Chris Lynch (HarperTeen, November 2010) is the novel I have come to expect from this incredibly talented YA author. Lynch writes is many genres. He can write excruciatingly funny books (JOHNNY CHESTHAIR comes to mind), in second person (the mind blowing Printz Honor FREEWILL) and even some sci fi (CYBERIA). In HOTHOUSE, we have a son-father relationship that will almost simultaneously warm your heart and chill you to the bone.
"Are ya winnin'?" Dad would ask of Russ. Dad was winning. He was part of a dynamic duo of fire fighters. Russ loved him and planned to follow in Dad's footsteps. He is already training as a junior fire fighter. And then the horrific happens: Dad and his partner are killed in a fire. Outrageous Courageous is how they are branded by their fellow firemen and the rest of this tightly knit community. Russ is lifted up by their support, but still misses his Dad and often reflects on their times together fixing massive breakfasts, climbing, fishing without hopes of catching fish. But when the news breaks that perhaps the fire fighters' deaths were compromised by drugs in their systems, Russ' carefully constructed life is shattered.
Lynch does not blink, never backs away from the tough truths about death and loss and family and community and backlash. That is why I so admire his work. I want to look away but he forces me to confront everything Russ has to face. I go through the experience with the main character. It is painful but, ultimately, rewarding. "Are ya winnin'?" You are if you read this book.
READING LADDER RUNG POSSIBILITIES:
other Lynch books, especially The Blue Eyed Son Trilogy and then SLOT MACHINE to see a perfect-o funny book
IRONMAN by Chris Crutcher
BOOK OF SAMUEL
FUNNY HOW THINGS CHANGE
KING OF THE SCREW-UPS
LAST NIGHT I SANG TO THE MONSTER