CARTWHEEL Is a Mental Gymnastic Story of Misperceptions and Half-Truths

In 2007, Amanda Knox was charged with murder for the death of her roommate in Italy. What ensued was a complex case with many unknown variables that still resulted in a conviction of her and others involved in the incident. Author Jennifer duBois uses this intriguing and tragic real life story as the basis for her latest novel, Cartwheel. She changes the setting and the names, but the heart of the true events remain as she explores how this terrible crime could have happened.
Cover-of-CartwheelLily Hayes has come to Buenos Aires to study Spanish. Once there, she gets caught up in a love triangle of sorts with her roommate Katy Kellers and their reclusive neighbor Sebastian LeCompte. So, when Katy is found dead, by Lily, the police are quick to accuse Lily. What follows is a tale of obscured truths and misconceived notions that culminate in destructive fashion. From the baffling cartwheel that Lily performs in her initial interrogation to the influence of the prosecutor’s wife on his investigation you’ll be squirming in your seat seeing how the characters squander their own reputations in their attempts to save them.
While duBois uses the framework of the Knox case to inform her story, she takes us deep into the characters minds to see how the case became so controversial. We see through the main characters’ eyes how their perceptions of each other and the lies they tell, often innocently, come back to hurt them. She paints a fully-realized portrait of the events surrounding the murder, but duBois never shows us what really happened the night of the murder, leaving us to guess what really happened.
It may be disheartening to know that the truth is not revealed, but the purpose of Cartwheel is to decide the truth for yourself (just as the characters so recklessly do). Consider yourself the judge as Lily Hayes is put on trial. We’re certainly given enough information to decide for ourselves (and enough information to mourn what happened to Amanda Knox). The insights into the characters are layered and nuanced, making Sebastian into a likable, yet smarmy, love interest and the prosecutor Eduardo Campos into a despicable manipulator (but that’s just my interpretation of the characters—what’s yours?).
Jennifer duBois uses a rich language to tell this story, making it all that more vivid. But duBois does not want you to think that she presumes to have the answers to the real Knox case. Knox may have allegedly done a cartwheel (a fact which has since been confirmed false); but Lily really did. And, as duBois puts it, “In the real universe is a girl who never did a cartwheel. This novel is the story of a girl who did.”

You Won’t Be MADD When You Read Atwood’s Final MADDADDAM Novel

17262203In her final installment in the MaddAddam trilogy, Margaret Atwood brings together the large cast of characters from Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. Told through Toby, we learn the fate of Jimmy, Amanda, and Ren after capturing the Painballers and see how the remaining humans deal with the ever-curious Crakers, increasingly-intelligent pigoons, and survival in this post-apocalyptic world. Crake’s “perfect” new world didn’t begin as smoothly as he would have liked, and the human factor remains as a potential force to upset his intentions with the Crakers.
Continuing her flashback structure implemented in the previous novels, Atwood also tells us the history of Zeb and Adam One. Raised as brothers, the boys had a close bond not unlike that of Jimmy and Glenn. Zeb was the rebellious one, always making jokes (like Jimmy); and Adam the reserved one, always plotting (like Crake). As Zeb tells Toby about his past, we see even more connections between the characters and get some final insights into Crake’s origin’s and those of MaddAddam. It’s fascinating to see the parallels between Zeb and Jimmy’s story, and it fully paints the picture of this rich (and ever frightening) future that Atwood has developed.
Just like The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam is reminiscent of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked novels. Despite not having green skin, Toby could easily be Elphaba, speaking to bees and communing with the Crakers. Unlike Elphaba, though, Toby does not come off as wicked at all (although she does imbibe the story with the dry wit that Maguire is known for), proving herself to be the true heroine of this trilogy. (Jimmy, who is still sick for most of this novel, is more of a backseat hero.) And, just like the Wicked novels, it is sad to leave the world Atwood has created when you finish the novels. With so much more left that could be said and explored, maybe another novel could appear along the road? (And, just as unlikely, wouldn’t it be amazing to see these books adapted for television? Someone call JJ Abrams.)

This DOCTOR Won’t Put You to SLEEP

Doctor Sleep is another one of the novels this year to follow the sequel trend (see also: Revenge Wears Prada, Sycamore Row, and Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy). Stephen King returns to the world of his classic 1977 novel The Shining, picking up with the lives of Danny Torrance, his mother Wendy, and his fellow shiner Dick Hallorann. The first half of the book follows Danny’s life as he grows into a troubled alcoholic like his father. But Danny does not want to be destined to become the monster that his father was and tries to be a better man.
Doctor_SleepWe are also introduced to a new cast of characters that includes uber-shiner girl Abra and the evil yet beautiful Rose the Hat. Rose and her crew of undead shiner suckers are King’s newest terror, and after reading what they do to a helpless little boy you’ll be quite pleased that you don’t have the shining yourself. While all the characters remain more or less disconnected throughout the first half of the novel, King does a masterful job of bringing all the storylines together.
Getting through the wandering stories in that first half may feel tedious at times, but King makes up for it with the thrilling second half that I literally could not put down. It’s a rollercoaster battle between good and evil that should be familiar to readers of King’s work (and just as rewarding). If you loved The Shining (and who doesn’t?), you can rest assured that he appropriately alludes to the novel while still telling a fully new and complete story. And if you haven’t read the previous novel you will still be able to enjoy Doctor Sleep on its own. If only all sequels could be as great as this one.