Book Review: Alive, by Chandler Baker
Stella Cross’s heart is poisoned. After years on the transplant waiting list, she’s running out of hope that she’ll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.
Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred with strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone’s radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi can barely stand to be apart.
Stella is convinced that Levi is her soul mate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?
After all, the heart never lies…does it?
Rating: Three Stars
Genres: YA, Mystery, Paranormal & Thriller
Publication Date: June 9th, 2015.
When one starts a new novel, one would think to check the genres of the novel, to read the blurb properly to get a feel of the book one will be reading. I am clearly too thick to do those things – I did not know that this was a YA Thriller & Mystery novel and the book certainly corrected me.
Alive is Stella Cross’s story – Stella needs a new heart, or she’s going to die. She gets one, which is how the story moves forward. We are slowly introduced to Stella, her parents, her sister Elsie whom she has nicknamed The Replacement Child, her friends Brynn, Lydia and Henry. We actually hear of Henry first, when she texts him in the hospital right before the big surgery.
When I started the novel, I wasn’t really into it. It took a while to pick up, I felt disconnected with the Stella. The novel felt like a weird crossover between The Fault in Our Stars and Stella’s life. Just that instead of cancer, the protagonist had a poisoned heart. There’s even a quote that sounded similar:
“The thing about pain is that it is invisible.”
Stella doesn’t come off as a very likable character at the beginning, whining and cribbing often. And then she meets Levi Zin, the new guy at school who quickly takes an interest in her. Which should have been suspicious to me at the start itself – Stella has recently recovered from something big, and there are prettier girls in school, what is Levi up to? [Pardon my lack of faith in seventeen year old boys].
The book drags on much more than it should have. Fifty percent into the book and finally, something interesting happens, something interesting enough to make me want to read further and quickly.
Stella starts having hallucinations and a very specifically timed pain after the heart transplant. And there’s only one thing that can remove the pain, so to speak – Levi. During Halloween, Levi acts like the possessed and flawed boyfriend he is. Why? Because Stella was speaking to Henry – who did I mention, was in love with Stella?
Things get complicated and chaos ensues. Here’s where the book picks up and changes direction from what I originally thought it was. What I predicted was Stella probably got the heart from Levi’s dead girlfriend / boyfriend or someone he was close to. This was one of the more plausible reasons why he got so close to her and why they seemed to have created an unhealthy co-dependant relationship in such a short span.
But nope, here’s where the mystery part kicks in.
The book moves along rapidly after Halloween and this time, things are explained better with Stella’s hallucinations being brought out much more clearly. Earlier, it was hard to make out what was reality and what she was hallucinating.
Stella experiences some character development, one of heroic notion by the end of the novel. Henry is all buddy-buddy with her and Brynn disappears after some time.
The ending of the novel seemed a bit unrealistic to me. She didn’t like Henry romantically before and after her surgery, and that was all before she met Zin who captured her heart. So colour me surprised at the ending where Brynn also makes a guest appearance.
The writing is nice though, even if it does take some time getting used to. There aren’t too many things that raise question marks.
Alive is a good debut novel, especially a mystery thriller YA one.
But it just didn’t meet my standards to be really liked. So that’s three stars for this one – two for the plot and one for the characterization and the writing.
The book comes out on June 9th and if you’re interested in YA Mystery & Thriller novels, I strongly suggest you give this a chance. Who knows, you may like it more than I did. [And the fact that you know it’s a mystery and not a romance might also help].
[P.S – The tagline kinda gives it away though, doesn’t it?]