Kerry Winfrey
August 23, 2014 9:00 am

Addison Stone was one of the most promising artists around. . .but now she’s dead. So what happened on the night that Addison died? Was it an accident, or were sinister forces at work? Did she simply fall to her death, or was someone to blame?

It’s an intriguing premise, but even more intriguing is the format of the book. Adele Griffin’s The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone tells Addison’s story entirely through interviews. Although we don’t get Addison’s voice (except for a few emails and magazine interviews), we do hear from her parents, teachers, boyfriends, therapists, and friends. And all of their voices add up to a compelling big picture that you won’t be able to stop reading.

Addison’s always been a talented artist. Even as a kid, she showed incredible promise. But it’s when she reaches high school and her concerned art teacher pushes her to go to New York that things really start to happen for her. Soon she’s hanging out with New York’s richest kids, producing her best work, and generally taking over the art world.

She’s also, however, getting into trouble. Addison’s never exactly had a perfect home life. While she has a supportive BFF, her parents aren’t the best. Add that to her mental health issues and you have a recipe for problems. It doesn’t help that Addison gets involved with some dudes who may or may not be bad news. It’s all enough to make you wonder just what happened on the night she died.

Even though we all know how this story turns out from the first page (a newspaper article about Addison’s death kicks off the story), that doesn’t make the book any less of a page-turner. The fact that the book is told through interviews just makes piecing together Addison’s story that much more satisfying. As you can probably imagine, some of the people interviewed are less than reliable characters, and you never know who you can trust. Everyone knows a different side of Addison, but everyone thinks they know her best.

But the book isn’t just interviews—it also features Addison’s artwork and photographs of Addison and her friends. Logically, I know that Addison Stone isn’t a real person and that this is a work of fiction (I do have some grip on reality, you guys), but those pictures made me feel like I was reading the history of a real artist. It doesn’t hurt that the author, Adele Griffin, uses her own name in the book’s author notes when talking about securing interviews with key players in Addison’s life. It feels like a real-life true crime novel, which is basically the highest compliment I can give.

If you’ve read Marisha Pessl’s (non-YA) novel Night Film, you might remember that it uses multimedia sources to piece together its mystery. And if you go way back to when this column first launched, you might remember that I recommended an innovative, exciting book called Chopsticks, that told a story entirely through pictures, letters, and mementos. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone reminded me a lot of both of those books, and not just because of its unusual form. There’s an undeniable current of creepiness running through the entire book. I mean, look at that cover. Maybe I’m a big baby (spoiler alert: I am), but I’m sort of scared just looking at it. And, much like the two examples I named, at times The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone feels like a film instead of a book.

I know we tend to focus on the more romantic side of YA here in Young Adult Education, but let me say on the record that I’d love to see more mysteries in YA. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is a perfect mystery because it’s not too concerned with a big reveal or a shocking plot twist. Instead, Adele Griffin is content to let you slowly put the puzzle pieces together yourself, and that makes for a super fun reading experience.

What about you guys? Have you read The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone? Do you have any YA mysteries (or non-YA mysteries!) to recommend? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, send me an email at youngadulteducation@gmail.com or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

Image via Adele Griffin

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