Francisco X. Stork does not shy away from issues. In Marcelo in the Real World he discusses Aspberger’s Syndrome. Marcelo is torn between his desire to stay in his special school and his father’s demand that he experience and learn to function in the real world. As we’ll learn, this is a relatively tame issue for Stork.
In The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, he deals with a young man, Pancho, who is out to kill the man who he believes attacked and killed his ‘simple-minded’ younger sister. Sent to an orphanage after both his sister and his father die within a short time span, Pancho meets D.Q., who is battling a rare form of cancer. All D.Q. wants to do is survive long enough to finish writing his Death Warrior manifesto, which is about “loving life at all times and in all circumstances,” and to convince Pancho to embrace the Death Warrior philosophy.
In Irises, Stork tackles the death of one parent and the vegetative state of another parent. Sixteen year old Mary and eighteen year old Kate’s pastor father dies suddenly. Two years prior, he was driving with his wife, tried to beat the yellow light and didn’t make it. Catalina, his wife, is now a vegetable, living at home with a feeding tube, tended by her daughters. The pastor’s death obviously causes untold trauma and stress in the children’s lives. Living in El Paso, Kate has been accepted at Stanford University, pre-med, on a full scholarship. If she leaves, what is to become of Mary? If she stays, what is to become of her dreams? And is Catalina really living? Is her light still shining?
I thought Marcelo in the Real World was an excellent book and while I didn’t love The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, I gave Stork a lot of credit for dealing with the subject. Irises falls into the latter category. I like the characters. I understand the emotions. Having been involved in two “pulling the plug” decisions in my life, it is not something anyone wants to participate in. And so, I give Stork credit for portraying, in a realistic way, the emotions surrounding such decisions. Having said that, though, I just couldn’t get into the story. It didn’t grip me. I don’t know why.
Despite my feelings about Irises, you know that I am looking forward to Francisco X. Stork’s next book because, undoubtedly, it will be like no other. I suggest you read Irises, named after the Van Gogh painting that Mary is trying so hard to copy, because it tackles a subject not yet tackled in Young Adult literature.