This intricate, intoxicating novel by two-time National Book Award finalist Adele Griffin opens with a photo of a stunning girl named Addison Stone and a newspaper article announcing her death, at 18. It seems this talented New York artist-prankster fell on a summer night while plastering a billboard on the Manhattan Bridge overpass. Was this an accident? Suicide? Was she pushed? Two ex-boyfriends have motive but no alibi. And what of Addison’s obsession with a deceased young painter named Ida? Griffin inserts herself as biographer-investigator into this richly layered, metafictive mystery. As Addison’s writing teacher for a very short time, Griffin, the character, laments the loss of a brilliant spirit and decides to “dig for a deeper truth.” The result is a compilation of e-mails, magazine covers and oral accounts from those acquainted with the erratic artist, including her plaintive mother, irritated cousin, savvy art-dealer and supportive best friend. The portrait that emerges of Addison (herself a portrait painter) is the verbal equivalent of intersecting planes, blurred lines, shifting shadows and clashing colors. Griffin the character further textures the narrative with art by Addison, photos of Addison and back-cover blurbs from the characters (all of which were commissioned, staged and created by Griffin the author). This compelling story can be read on many levels, from a multi-voiced meditation on a brief, bright life in the Big Apple to an exploration of the biographer’s almost impossible task: the discovery and distillation of another’s complex self.

Mary Quattlebaum


By Adele Griffin

"The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone" by Adele Griffin. (Soho Teen)

Soho Teen. $17.99. Ages 14 and up