Book Review: Irises by Francisco X. Stork

Posted February 26, 2013 by Renae // 2 Comments

Book Review: Irises by Francisco X. Stork

Title: Irises
Author: Francisco X. Stork
Release Date: January 1, 2012
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Summary from Goodreads:

TWO SISTERS: Kate is bound for Stanford and an M.D.—if her family will let her go. Mary wants only to stay home and paint. When their loving but repressive father dies, they must figure out how to support themselves and their mother, who is in a permanent vegetative state, and how to get along in all their uneasy sisterhood.

THREE YOUNG MEN: Then three men sway their lives: Kate's boyfriend Simon offers to marry her, providing much-needed stability. Mary is drawn to Marcos, though she fears his violent past. And Andy tempts Kate with more than romance, recognizing her ambition because it matches his own.

ONE AGONIZING CHOICE: Kate and Mary each find new possibilities and darknesses in their sudden freedom. But it's Mama's life that might divide them for good—the question of if she lives, and what's worth living for.

I honestly don’t know what to make of Irises. Undeniably, Francisco X. Stork doesn’t really “get” the teenage demographic, but at the same time I had a huge emotional investment in the story. My feelings regarding this book are conflicted at best, and indifferent at worst. In any case, Irises is a book that didn’t quite live up to its potential, though (I think) I liked it anyways.

Initially, I was really excited to read book because it deals with subjects not often touched on in YA—namely, religion and faith. Irises is about two sisters, Kate and Mary, who were raised by their stifling minister father and how they deal with themselves after his death. I thought Stork handled religion very well, offering a realistic view into what that looks like and how it affects your personality. I thought the topic was tastefully done, though others might find it to be mildly preachy, perhaps.

The other issue Mary and Kate have to face is what to do with their mother, who’s in a persistent vegetative state. They can’t afford to hire a nurse for her, and a facility won’t take her since she’s considered brain-dead. Either sacrifices have to be made, or the sisters have to let their mother go, which is the biggest sacrifice of all.

Yet though I loved the plot and the themes Stork attempted to play with in this book, I don’t think he had a good grasp on his characters or teenagers in general. Mary and Kate sounded like they were five years old, and, unhelpfully, their narration was mostly juvenile “telling” with very little “showing.” Irises also attempts to realistically portray teen sex, but in that area it failed massively. Considering Kate and Mary’s conservative upbringing, I was willing to be open-minded, but when Stork used the phrase “made love” seven times in one paragraph, I about lost it. And then there’s a scene where Kate gives her boyfriend a handjob, and…no. The most ridiculous “romantic” scene I’ve read all year. The long and short of it is this: Francisco X. Stork does not understand his audience or the age-group he is writing about.

Stork’s writing, also, was fairly immature. This read very much like a younger middle grade novel, which didn’t work well at all when dealing with things like cutting off life-support and handjobs, etc. There are cases where “show vs. tell” is a bunch of nonsensical rigmarole, but not in Irises. While reading this, I felt like I was five years old and in a Sunday school class with a white-haired old lady. NOT the kind of novel I like to read.

In the end, I think Irises was written by the wrong author. The story was good and interesting, but the characters were difficult to connect with and some subjects were looked at through rose-colored glasses. I think Stork is probably a good author, but this just isn’t the kind of thing he’s meant to write. I hate it when an author underestimates my intelligence, and I think that’s what this author did here. So in the end, Irises was only okay.

Renae has written book reviews and other miscellany for Respiring Thoughts since 2012. She loves dogs, Mexican food, mountains, Shakespeare, and procrastinating. She's currently working on an undergrad degree in English/Spanish lit in the Midwest. Connect with Renae on Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Irises by Francisco X. Stork

  1. This has been on my to-read for awhile now, but has never been a priority. I’m definitely disappointed to hear that it doesn’t live up to its potential, and it sucks that the author doesn’t know how to write about teenagers. I actually have the audio of this one (it was free from YA Sync over the summer), but I don’t think I can handle hearing the term “made love” repeatedly. Reading it once is bad enough.
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    • I’ve seen good reviews for other books of Stork’s, but I couldn’t understand him here. It was like he expected Kate and Mary to deal with grown-up issues while maintaining the mentality of ten-year-olds. Something needed to give.