Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Death Spiral"

Janie Chodosh is a scientist wannabe and a naturalist. She has spent the last decade teaching high school English and middle school science. When not writing or obsessing about writing, Chodosh can be found with her family in various outdoor pursuits including bird watching, rock climbing, or trying to grow a garden in the arid southwest. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her daughter, stepson, and husband.

Chodosh applied the Page 69 Test to Death Spiral, her first novel, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
A few hours later, I’m crossing the school parking lot, ditching the rest of my classes so I can catch a train and make my appointment when I hear someone calling my name. I turn and there’s Anj bounding toward me. In her pink fluffy sweater and matching pink hat, she looks like she’s been wrapped in cotton candy.

“What’re you doing? It’s freezing out here. Don’t you have class?” she asks when she reaches my side.

“Skipping. What about you?”

“P.E, but that not’s a class. I told Mr. G it was that time of the month and I had cramps and he excused me. Works every time.” Anj smiles. It’s the smile more than anything that lets her pull this kind of crap. Big, bright, radiant, and oh so earnest. “So what’s your plan?”

“I’m going to the city,” I say, tapping my foot. I have an eleven o’clock train, and I’m late as it is. Laz cornered me after third period and wanted to know when I was planning on handing in my Hemingway term paper, due sometime last week. I promised I’d get it to him tomorrow and took off before he could protest.

“The city?” Anj bubbles. “Sounds fun. There’s something I have to tell you. Mind if I tag along?”

“Well, actually—”

“Great, because Mondays are a total drag. I have three electives in a row. Spanish, German, and French.”

I lean against the hood of a red car with a license plate that says GRLTOY and stare at Anj.

“Since when are you taking German?”

Her cheeks turn the same color as her sweater, and she looks up at me with a sheepish grin. “I started two weeks ago. What can I say? Romance languages look good on applications.”

“But German isn’t a romance language.”
Prior to page 69 the reader has learned that sixteen-year-old Faith Flores has been living with her aunt in the Philadelphia suburbs since her mom’s death from a supposed heroin overdose. Faith doesn’t believe her mom OD’d and is determined to find out the truth behind her death.

Faith, having grown up without a father and with an addict for a mother, has never known stability and doesn’t trust anyone. When she meets New Boy, Jesse Schneider, Faith is attracted to his in-your-face honesty and sense of humor. But Faith is afraid of getting close and of getting hurt so she keeps him at an emotional distance even though she allows him to come with her when she visits Melinda, her mom’s former junkie friend, who’s sent Faith a mysterious letter.

Melinda tells Faith that both she and Faith’s mom had participated in an experimental clinical trial to treat heroin addiction. Faith isn’t sure if she believes Melinda who has a bad track record with honesty and who despite claiming to be clean still appears strung out. Faith is is determined to find out everything she can about her mother’s death, so she decides to go to the city and visit the doctor who’s running the clinical trial. At the start of page 69, Faith is skipping school in order to catch a train to get to the downtown clinic, and she bumps into Anj, who is also skipping class.

The dialogue between the two girls shows more of Anj’s bubbly voice than Faith’s broody intensity, so I wouldn’t say the passage necessarily represents Faith. The passage does, however, capture the type of energetic, teenage dialogue that occurs frequently throughout the book. Additionally, there is a strong genetics component to this mystery, which is woven into the book. Page 69 does not deal with the scientific aspect of the mystery.
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--Marshal Zeringue