By Adele Griffin
Available now from Soho Teen
THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE positions author Adele Griffin as a woman who taught Addison Stone for a single class, and is inspired by that encounter and the artist's mysterious death to search out people who knew them and recount their stories.
The book is laid out in vaguely chronological order, from when Addison starts making art at six or seven to when she dies at eighteen, falling off the Manhattan Bridge and drowning in the East River. (Or jumping off, or being pushed off.) From the start the reader knows there were two men in her life: Zach Frat and London Reed. However, they take awhile to enter the picture.
I loved the piecemeal nature of the book. The accounts all conflict with each other: Addison's parents, Addison's art teachers, Addison's childhood best friend, Addison's early rival, Addison's platonic soulmate, Addison's stoner friend, Addison's boyfriend, and more. Sometimes they agree, but often each character has pretty different opinions about what Addison's actual thoughts were. And the bits in Addison's voice don't help much. They're interviews or emails, tailored for a specific audience. All one can do is piece together a truth, which is all that's left behind by any life. The book includes photographs of Addison and her friends, but they aren't much more concrete. Everyone agrees that Addison has black hair, but the photos show her having dark brown hair. Is it just that the publisher cast a model as close as possible, or that her gothy looks are exaggerated after her death?
Now, THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE does position Addison as a great artist. She can do oils, she can sculpt, she can script performance art. Addison's art, included in the novel, reminds me somewhat of George Condo. It doesn't entirely convince me that she was a great artist, but it does convince me that her star would rise after her death. She is that bright talented that never quite reaches its height because it is cut down.
Mental illness, supernatural haunting, vengeful boyfriend, broken heart - no one quite knows how Addison dies. But everyone can speculate, shoulder blame (or cast it). I found that the various voices sometimes blended into each other - they sound similar despite their differing opinions. But the story was quite compelling, and the novel format served it well. THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE is a terrific choice for fans of mysteries and experimental fiction.