the unifinished life

“Griffin, a two-time National Book Award finalist and one of the best YA authors around, attempts something very different here: a Rashomon-like take on a young girl’s life, highlighted by photos of the girl and her art, all in an attempt to put the unknowable Addison more within the reader’s grasp… A terrific experiment, something fresh and hard to put down. It gives a sense of both the artistic temperament and the nature of madness-and the sometimes thin line in between.”
-Booklist, Starred Review

“Snippets of interviews sprinkled with color photographs and paintings form a portrait of a sassy and troubled young woman…[an] indictment of the shallowness of contemporary cultural life.”
-Kirkus Reviews

“A faux biography of a deceased teenage rising star in the art world, [built] around interviews from people involved in Addison’s life before she died, excerpts from media coverage of her rapidly growing fame, photographs of Addison and her friends, and images of her artwork…Griffin offers incisive commentary on mental illness and the frenzy around (and pressures induced by) celebrity, especially surrounding young women. Defined primarily by the contradictory accounts of those around her, Addison remains something of a cipher even by book’s end.”
-Publishers Weekly

Read an Excerpt:

I met Addison Stone only once. She had enrolled as a freshman in my creative writing workshop at Pratt Institute. There were only six other students in my class, and as a visiting instructor, I was happy we’d be such a tight group. Fifteen minutes into the session, I’d figured this “A. Stone” person wasn’t attending. So when a girl skittered in, late and unapologetic, I was annoyed.

She was striking: tall yet delicate, with pale skin and dark eyes and two braids like a pair of flat black ropes past her shoulders. The scars on her wrists caught me off guard. She didn’t speak, not even to apologize for being late. Perhaps most telling, she scraped back the only empty chair so that it stood outside the circle I’d arranged. When she sat, her paint-spattered arms dropped at her sides as if she had no use of them.

We’d been making introductions, so I started over for her benefit. We went around the circle again: a few sentences each about who we were and where we’d come from. When we got to Addison, she shook her head.
“I’m not here yet,” she said softly. Startled, some of the other students looked to me for a reaction. Who did this girl think she was? I had none. I was thinking, Who’d remember anything else about that day except for the girl who told them she wasn’t there?

Before they left, I gave an assignment: pick a memory and describe it in the voice of yourself at the age you lived through it. One paragraph or one page—no more. Due in my inbox by five o’clock on Friday. At 5:13 on Friday, Addison’s essay hit:

I’m last. I’m late. I pull my chair away for comfort. I’m invisible and exposed. My words establish my walls. My whole life I’m two people. I am I, and I am Her. I’ve been asked to pin down a moment. But do I care about my past? Why would I want to look behind when I’m hurtling forward so fast? I’m mostly scared I can’t catch up with me. I am always almost out of time.

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Friday Reads: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone

Category: Staff Picks

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