Book Review: Alive

By: Chandler Baker
Published by: Disney-Hyperion
Release date: June 9, 2015
Genre: YA paranormal/thriller
368 pages
Source: finished copy kindly provided by publisher

It must be my lucky season for finding YA debut authors, because I've found a string of them. Chandler Baker hits the latest home run with Alive.

If you are a reader who is at all inclined to trust my opinion somewhat blindly, and you enjoy a good YA paranormal that's a little creeptastic, stop here and add Alive to your tbr list. You will enjoy it more if you can avoid spoilers, even minor ones. This is a genre morpher; the beginning reads like a contemporary, until things start to go a little sideways. The ride will be a little more fun if you don't know what's around the bend. 

A book like this runs the risk of a cast of characters that becomes large and confusing. Baker avoids that pitfall, streamlining things and using fewer characters with expert efficiency. Our main character, Stella, behaves peculiarly early on in the book, but her "normal" self is anchored in her friends' reactions to her. Brynn and Henry are the support system she needs, even when she pushes them away. Levi, the hot new guy at school, brings intrigue and adventure to the mundane life to which Stella has become accustomed since having undergone a heart transplant. Throw in a snotty rival girl, some concerned adults, and a toddler little sister, and this story is set to go.

The artful construction of the plot is the very best thing about the book. Weird stuff is explained piece by piece, and as the story turns the corner from contemporary to thriller, the reader gets to enjoy from a safe distance the discovery process that terrifies Stella. The pages invite the reader to keep turning them, and they flow seamlessly from scene to scene. Details are sprinkled in right where they can be admired, and thankfully not tediously explained. Baker gives the reader just enough to allow a great "aha!" moment. 

Stella experiences some odd behavior that she can't explain; she at times is awestruck at how she acts, even as she's doing it. It's not uncommon for teens to experience this, so reading about a character who does helps the reader connect to her. Reading about how she discovers an explanation for it will give those teen readers a sense of hope, I think, that they may one day also get some resolution. 

It's pretty common for the really good stories to be drawn out into series form. Thankfully, Alive is a great stand-alone. It's refreshing to grab up a good read that will give you the whole story in one solid afternoon.

I'm pretty sure that the main character's name is an Easter egg: Stella means star, and her last name is Cross. Star cross(ed). Alive gives us an interesting spin on the star-crossed lovers, one that could make for some great book club discussions. I'd love to get in on that action.


Stella Cross's heart is poisoned.

After years on the transplant waiting list, she's running out of hope that she'll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.

Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred by strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone's radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi are inseparable. 

Stella is convinced that Levi is her soul mate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?

After all, the heart never lies...does it?


  1. That summary got me all kinds of intrigued!

  2. Oooh, I really love the cover! I'm sure going to check this book out!

  3. The idea behind this book is really interesting. I like paranormal stories!


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