Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Book Review: Thaw

Thaw by Monica M. Roe. (Grades 9+)

Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a life-threatening neurological disorder, has no certain cause and results in temporary complete paralysis. That would be devastating for anyone, but for perfectionist, type-A Dane, it's excruciating. Dane, who never wanted help from anyone, can't move his arms or legs. He can't walk, dress himself, or even turn his head. But GBS isn't permanent and 75% of sufferers make a complete recovery. With odds like those, Dane is quite certain that he'll be back on his feet and out on the ski slopes in time for fall training. He's always been better than average at whatever he's attempted, after all.

But as time passes, it becomes clear that Dane may not regain full control of his body, no matter how hard he works. If Dane's not a champion skier and all-around-perfect guy... who is he? That's what he'll have to figure out.

I have to give Monica Roe mad props for creating a character that I hated so much I wanted to punch him in the face, but with a story compelling enough to keep me turning the pages. Dane is obnoxious. Yes, he's talented and smart and athletic, but he treats everyone in his life really badly. "Empathy" is not in his vocabulary.

But who can really blame him? His parents take a strictly hands-off policy when their oldest son is stricken with this disease. They ship him off to Florida, purportedly because it's the best facility for his treatment, but also so they don't have to get their hands messy with him while he's not perfect. It's clear that Dane's not a brat for the sake of being a brat. He's developed his attitude as a way to deal with his dad's constant demand for nothing less than perfection.

Dane was a compelling character and, to be completely honest, I kept reading to see what would happen to finally put him in his place. There are two storylines - Dane's perspective from the hospital while he's recovering and flashbacks of his life before his diagnosis. We see what he was like before the disease and how he's changing now that he's in treatment.

The story wasn't completely cohesive for me. Although I knew there would come a point when Dane got his act together and stopped being so obnoxious, it didn't happen as organically as I would have liked. Maybe that was because of the book's diary-like format that sometimes documented several days in a row, but sometimes skipped ahead several days. But even with its faults, I found this to be an interesting story with a passionate main character.

I'd hand this one to fans of Inexcusable and The Burn Journals and maybe It's Kind of a Funny Story. I'd also recommend Pat Hughes's Open Ice, which is about a teen hockey player who may have to give up the sport after a head injury.

Check out Cynthia's interview with Monica Roe.