Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Tell the truth, no matter how much it hurts.", May 18, 2012
This review is from: The Year of the Gadfly (Hardcover)
In "The Year of the Gadfly," Jennifer Miller describes the tribulations of fourteen-year old aspiring journalist Iris Dupont, who has limited social skills, speaks to the ghost of her "spiritual mentor," Edward R. Murrow, and is disconsolate over the loss of her best friend. Iris moves with her family from Boston to Nye, Massachusetts, where she will attend Mariana Academy, a New England prep school. Mariana is a pressure cooker of raging hormones, academic competitiveness, and teenage angst, but there is one bright spot--Iris's brilliant biology teacher, Jonah Kaplan. Mr. Kaplan is an entomologist and an expert on extremophiles--"extreme-loving microbes from which all life originates." Some of these creatures live in boiling water; others can survive after being frozen; and still others thrive under pressure "that would crush a Mack truck." Kaplan is a demanding educator who challenges his students to reject conformity and think creatively. Iris is fascinated with Kaplan who, like her, is an iconoclast with a hidden core of grief.

The author is an astute observer of adolescent misery. She understands the exaggerated emotions of high-school kids who must cope with sexual tension, peer pressure, and inflated parental expectations. If Miller had devoted her narrative to Jonah's unusual teaching style and Iris's transformation from a self-centered rebel to a more broad-minded and tolerant individual, "Gadfly" might have been more conventional but also more readable. Instead, the author gives each character alternating chapters; this turns out to be more distracting than entertaining. In addition, Miller moves back and forth in time, contrasting events in the present with those of 1999, when Jonah, his twin brother, Justin, and their classmates, Hazel and Lily, were all Mariana students at war with their parents and one another. Sadly, a tragic accident will break up this uneasy alliance and have long-lasting effects on the survivors.

Jennifer Miller is an intelligent writer who challenges us to stick with a busy plot that incorporates secret societies, weird initiations, mysterious deaths, "arcane, pseudo-intellectual pranks," long-hidden secrets and grudges, and regrets about the road not taken. Many pages are devoted to Lily, whose former home Iris now occupies. Lily was born with albinism, a rare genetic condition; she is desperate to fit in with her "normal" counterparts. Iris relates to Lily's feelings of isolation and eagerly snoops into her background.

"The Year of the Gadfly" is provocative, satirical, thought-provoking, and occasionally humorous. However, like the aforementioned extremophiles, this novel is too offbeat to strike a chord with the average reader. On the other hand, those who like original and daring works of fiction may be impressed with Miller's ambitious portrayal of young people who go off the rails with disastrous consequences.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

3.9 out of 5 stars (65 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (22)
4 star:
 (22)
3 star:
 (16)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
$24.00 $18.95
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Reviewer

E. Bukowsky "booklover10"
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: NY United States

Top Reviewer Ranking: 82