The Stellow Project by Shari Becker

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Stellow Project by Shari Becker

Publisher: June 23, 2015
Publication Date: Skyscrape
Pages: 305
Source: publisher in exchange for honest review
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
When a killer storm unexpectedly hits Manhattan, seventeen-year-old Lilah Stellow’s dad insists that she and her younger sister, Flori, take refuge at their cabin in the mountains. But instead of joining them with the experimental drug that keeps Lilah alive, he disappears just as news reports name him as a prime suspect in an act of ecoterrorism.
As days pass without her medicine, Lilah finds herself teetering on the edge, caring for her sister, and growing increasingly certain they’re being watched. In her search for answers, Lilah is thrown into the center of a mystery involving an off-the-grid research facility and finds herself drawn in by Daniel, an intriguing boy who is the son of the lead scientist. As she dares to seek answers, Lilah slowly realizes that even the best intentions can go horribly wrong. --Goodreads
 The Stellow Project novel opens with Lilah and Flori Stellow being driven by Lilah’s best friend Meena, to the family cabin in upstate New York to avoid a dangerous storm heading towards their home in Manhattan.  Lilah cannot drive due to problems with her lungs especially affected by the different air conditions preceding storms.  The storm quickly escalates into a severe tornado which decimates much of New York City.  Lilah’s father sends messages that his girl’s should stay put and wait for him.  Meena returns to her family to help repair the damage done by the storm.  News reaches the Stellow girls that their father is being sought among claims that he may have committed an act of eco-terrorism.  As if everything that transpired so far wasn’t enough, Lilah realizes they may be under surveillance themselves, and she is running out of her special medicine.  Danger escalates and the girl’s run, but who do you trust when everything you have known isn’t as it seems?

If you read the synopsis on the back cover, the above paragraph leads right into the story you would expect.  The science fiction – dystopian type novel starts out really on the good side.  The writing is done well, the back story is not just dumped on the reader all at once, but fed little by little so the full extent of the horror of what the Stellow girls have endured sinks in and becomes unavoidable.  The details drag the reader in and they are moved along swiftly with the current of events while Lilah tries to determine what is the truth, does the end justify the means when the lines between good and evil become blurred, and…???

If you are reading the sci fi–dystopian novel, the paragraph above is what you get.  There is not an ending to that novel and that burns the reader because it was going along so well.  However, if you read the The Stellow Project as a psychological expose’ on relationships told within a science fiction – dystopian landscape, then you may find the closure needed while you pine away awaiting a sequel to the sci fi-dystopia novel which you currently cannot be sure is coming.  The question with the psychological turn on the novel then becomes - what is the truth and does it make a difference whose truth you find?

Without spoilers, that is as much as I dare say!!!

Do you want more……then read on, but BEWARE…SPOILERS ahead.

Medical Issues, People & Connections, Twists & Turns, Surprise! and No Ending!!!

Lilah’s condition is really very vague.  You are told she cannot drive because of her medical condition where she has trouble breathing but seems to control the issue with an inhaler and some pills received through the mail presumably prescribed by her scientist father.  Yet when she runs out of the pills, Lilah’s condition slowly deteriorates over a period of days (not hours, days).  When she finally collapses in the presence of the local teenaged boy at her family cabin, she is whisked off to the nearby secretive research facility that just happens to be led by the local teenaged boy’s mother.  Coincidence you say?  There are no such things as coincidences, so I am told.  It was like reading the Big Bang Theory of human evolution on Earth…a lot of coincidences that seem too abundant to be true.  When Lilah wakes up at this facility (brought about by treating her for drug withdrawal – sounds like a dangerous way to go for lack of a prescribed medication for a chronic illness), she can’t even explain what her condition is or the name of the medicine she is taking, where it is mailed from or who prescribed it.  She doesn’t even bother to share that there is a new full bottle of the medicine at her home in Manhattan which she, coincidentally, forgot to bring in her mad dash out of the city to beat the storm.  Furthermore you discover that Lilah’s multiple surgeries in her youth have left her scars that run from each collar bone diagonally down to meet on her chest, yet there are more scars that run from her collar bones down under her arms.  It sounds more like autopsy scars than heart or lung surgery which I thought usually followed the breastbone that would have to be broken to gain access to the chest cavity and all it contains, but I could be wrong.  It just made it more gruesome thinking of what they might have done to Lilah.

The characters in this novel were well written, diverse and yet complex in their inter-connections with other characters in the novel.  Maggie was an angel and even though they didn’t expound on the virtues of Tilly, I got the impression that they were much alike.  I wish there had been more about the Stellow father, but I guess giving too much of him away could conflict with the struggle of Lilah’s feelings of love, betrayal and acceptance in regards to her father and his actions.  The Stellow mother info left me thirsting for more in the beginning because it was so sparse, but by the end I felt the weight of thought that Lilah would be facing in the coming days about her mother.  The oddest connection I think I felt between characters is when the security guard and his friend were going to cut off their search for the Stellow girls and go to the one guys mother’s house for her delicious buns which seemed to give rise to Lilah thinking that also was the best place to go for safety.  I think that was a pretty complex thought process yet totally feasible within the confines of this tale.  The salty lady by lake was a great reminder that people are always suspect no matter what they say.  The final character I would like to mention (with chagrin!) – who is Grenier?  I don’t remember getting any satisfaction or answers wondering who his character is or what he wants with the Stellow girls.

There are twists and turns in this novel and as I don’t want to spoil all of your surprises, I will not expound too much on these.

The last one I thought of I will not share because it will give too much away, but what a surprise and pivotal point for the whole story.  Flori’s take on the whole adventure sheds such a different light on the entire tale that the reader will want to go back and reread everything.  It would be a great idea for a sequel to finish the novel in Flori’s (the younger Stellow girl) point of view.  I do believe a sequel is necessary, a story shouldn’t end in the middle and there are so many things left to find out in this riveting tale.  I appreciate the closure provided by the understanding of multiple ways to view an event, but tell me the end please!


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