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DEATH SPIRAL
by Janie Chodosh
The Poisoned Pencil, April 2014
310 pages
$10.95
ISBN: 1929345003


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

DEATH SPIRAL launches a new YA imprint for Poisoned Pen Press and marks an auspicious debut for both author and publisher. This first title in the Faith Flores Science Mysteries series promises compelling reading for YA and adult readers alike.

From the prologue:

The only good junkie is a dead junkie… When a junkie dies,

no one investigates. They call it an overdose and close the book.

I should know. My mom was one.

The day after my sixteenth birthday there she was… Heroin overdose was listed

as the official cause of death. Of course. Mom was a junkie. What else would

she die of? Everyone bought the story.

Everyone except me.

Protagonist Faith Flores is a character with a distinct voice, courage and determination. She's also smart – street smart and book smart. Nothing about her childhood was easy; her circumstances -- moving every few months, having to be a parent to her mom, changing schools often -- honed Faith's survival skills. She needs all her skills, tenacity and brainpower to take on the investigation of her mother's death.

Forty-two days after her mom died, Faith left her "cockroach-friendly walkup in West Philly" and moved to the Main Line with her mother's sister, Aunt T, who wasn't fully prepared to become the parent of her 16-year-old niece. In a new school – again – she makes a friend of Anj ("the proton to my electron"), a teen with a love for thrift store costume jewelry and anything purple. The two girls struggle to maintain their friendship in the midst of Faith's distractions. Then there is Jesse, a young man with conflicts of his own, trying to live up to his father's expectations. Anj and Jesse play key supporting roles as dangers mount.

Faith learns her mom had participated in clinical trials at a methadone clinic of medications designed to curb addiction. Fortunately, Faith is a stellar science student so she can process and synthesize information in a scientific way. She can readily speak with professors, research scientists, even the medical examiner, challenging their premises, voicing her suspicions. She can even face up to a drug dealer, Rat Catcher, who threatens, stalks and frames her.

Janie Chodosh accomplishes a mighty feat by weaving science throughout the story in a seamless and entertaining way. At the risk of sounding like the old fogey I am, I wish they'd had books like this when I was sixteen. This YA novel in no way talks down to readers but invites them to discover how vital and fascinating science can be. She also introduces us to a heroine we'd like to read more about. Read DEATH SPIRAL and join me in watching for book 2, THE HUMMINGBIRD THEORY.

§ Deb Shoss is a retired theatre producer/director, avid reader and former bookseller living in Lexington KY.

Reviewed by Deb Shoss, March 2013

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