Death Spiral boasts an intriguing, intricate plot with a beautiful cast of fleshed out characters. Overall, it was an excitement to read and I highly recommend it. Teens of all ages will enjoy their time in Faith’s head in Death Spiral.
Sixteen-year-old Faith Flores is the daughter of a drug addict. At least, that’s what everyone will judge her by. So when her mother dies of an apparent drug overdose, no one thinks too much of it—except for Faith. Her mom has made bad choices, but she’d never do this. She’d never leave her only daughter. No one will believe Faith, of course—her mother’s skin legions and the syringe of heroin on the bathroom floor make it pretty clear that it was a textbook case of drug abuse. Except who was the strange man at their house the day of her mother’s death? And what was the meaning of the threatening words Faith overhead? She’s sure there’s more to the story, if only someone will believe her. When her mom’s friend contacts her and ends up dead before she can share the whole story, Faith’s suspicions increase tenfold. Before long she’s skipping school, lying to her aunt, and blowing off her friends in her determination to clear her mom’s name. But some people don’t want a nosy teenager meddling in their business, and if Faith isn’t careful, she might just end up dead.
Although the main character Faith doesn’t always make the best choices, it only makes her more human and relatable. All of Chodosh’s characters are lively and unique, from optimistic, social-butterfly Anj to new boy Jesse with a passion for photography and a yearning for authenticity. Faith’s struggle to connect to the people around her drives the story forward, straining relationships and putting her new friendships to the test. Faith’s feelings towards her mother’s death are raw and tangible, which Chodosh parallels with woven in symbolism and memories which expand the novel’s world far beyond the constraints of the page. Furthermore, even though Death Spiral contains a lot of talk about genetics and drugs, Chodosh does a fantastic job explaining the science in such a way that even readers without an understanding of the science won’t be left behind. As far as the mystery genre goes, there could have been more ambiguity about whom to trust or not trust, but figuring out the truth about these apparent drug overdoses was still a puzzle and a game to figure out piece by piece.
Creative Writing Analysis: Janie Chodosh’s method of weaving symbolism into the story was a technique many authors could learn from. The symbols of the story, music and her mother’s white bird, reflect Faith’s current views on life and serve as an anchor in a world that seems to be falling apart. Both of the symbols allow Chodosh to explore the relationship between Faith and her mother. As a result, even though Faith’s mom never appears in the story, we still get a solid idea of who she was and why Faith believes her death was not an overdose. Faith’s mother comes to life through these reflections on birds and music, which invoke memories in Faith and create the image of the woman Faith loved and respected. The symbols are not rampant in the story—they are only mentioned a few times, so readers understand the reference and what it means to Faith but aren’t annoyed with excess references. The music also connects her to her love interest, Jesse. When she reflects on the music she and her mother listened to, Faith is at her most vulnerable. This creates key moments to connect Faith to Jesse, because it’s one of the few times Faith lowers the wall she’s built to protect herself. Similarly, the white bird that Faith sees from time to time tends to reflect her current mental optimism. At times, she’s sees the bird and is filled with hope and determinations. Other times, when she’s feeling lost and doubting herself, she sees the bird as a curse that won’t stop haunting her. Overall, the symbolism gave Faith, her mother, and Jesse more depth and purpose in the story. It brought their fears and failures to life.