Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wild Roses by Deb Caletti

Grade: A+


Seventeen-year-old Cassie Morgan has a secret: she’s living with a time bomb (A.K.A., her stepfather, Dino Cavalli). To the public, Dino is a world-renowned violin player and composer. To Cassie, he’s an erratic, self-centered bully. Dino has always been difficult, but as he prepares for his comeback concert, something in him begins to shift. He seems more high-strung than ever, set off by any little thing. He stops sleeping, starts chain-smoking. And he grows increasingly paranoid, saying things that Cassie is desperate to make sense of, but can’t. So she does what she thinks she must: she tries to hide his behavior from the outside world. Before, she was angry. Now, she is afraid.

Enter Ian Waters: A brilliant young violinist, and Dino’s first-ever student. The minute Cassie lays eyes on Ian she knows she’s doomed. She tries everything to keep away from him, but is drawn to him in a way she’s never felt before. It should be easy. It should be beautiful. It is not. Cassie thought she understood that love could bring pain. But this union will have consequences she could not have imagined.

As the novel crashes through two irreparable events and speeds toward its powerful end, one thing becomes clear: in the world of insanity, nothing is sacred. Not talent, not spirit, not love.


Character Development: 10/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 7/10
Voice: 9/10
Plot: 10/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 63/70

Obtained: Library.

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Yes, quite a bit.
Alcohol, Drugs, etc: Some drinking/drunkenness, chain smoking (though not illegal, definitely disgusting and I guess worth mentioning)
Sexual Content: Very vague references, but it's there.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Insanity/infirmity of the mind?


Deb Caletti certainly displays her talent for creating stories that are at once painful and beautiful in Wild Roses. If you like The Nature of Jade (which I did), you'll love this. Infused with fascinating facts about artists throughout history, the book really does make a statement about the devastating side of genius even as it builds a strong theme of the endurance of family and love despite all odds.

The characters--wow. Dino Cavalli is masterfully created as a character, so that you alternately hate him and admire him and pity him and love him, and then finally hate him all the more for that. He is a force, a human force, the incarnation of genius, and Caletti manages to translate all of that into her clever narration and dialogue and plot. Wow.

However, my favorite part of Caletti's writing, especially in Wild Roses, is how she seamlessly manages to incorporate all of this philosophy into her narrative without distracting from the plot or the characters--in fact, while adding to it. She somehow subtly integrates all of these deep, expressive ideas into Cassie's thoughts, but does it in a way that seems natural for the contemplative person that she is. Caletti is able to get so much meaning into her writing and widen the very specific plot complications--things that are certainly not everyday problems for the average reader--and make them universal, all-encompassing, and inescapable. A breathtaking read.


Deb Caletti
The Essay: What the Author Says about the Book
Wild Roses Excerpt

Wild Roses by Vincent Van Gogh (referenced in the book)


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