Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Behind the Book: IRISES by Francisco X. Stork

Earlier this year, the ARCs of Francisco Stork's latest novel, Irises, went out with the letter below. It's about the best introduction I can give the book, I think, so I decided I'd just reproduce it here. . . . Irises is in stores starting January 2012 (and there have already been sightings in the wild), and Francisco will be at ALA in Dallas later this month. Thank you for reading it, if you do.

Dear Friend,

As Francisco X. Stork’s editor, I often face a unique challenge:  how to summarize the stories of his extraordinary novels without making them sound totally cheesy. “A young man with Asperger’s syndrome investigates the meaning of suffering”? It seems unlikely, but that was Marcelo in the Real World, which became one of the most acclaimed YA novels of the past few years. “A cancer patient and a boy planning a murder become friends”? Oh, please—but The Last Summer of the Death Warriors just won ALAN’s Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. In both cases, the marvelous reality and honesty of Francisco’s characters, his fine, spare writing, and his bravery in probing these profound spiritual topics resulted in novels that were so much more than the summaries of their plots, and were embraced by critics and readers alike.

And now you’re holding Irises, in which—deep breath—“Two very different sisters must deal with the death of their father and the life of their mother, who is in a permanent vegetative state.” “But wait!” I want to grab you and say, because again it’s about so much more than that: Kate has ambition and dreams and drive, but how does she weigh the needs of her deepest self against her responsibility to her family? Mary is an artist because she can’t be anything else, but what can she do when she’s lost her own light? Both girls wrestle with the weight of love, for each other, for their mother, and for the three very (very) different young men in their lives. And while none of this is easy, Kate and Mary are so real, our sympathy for them so deep, that this ultimately becomes a book about connection more than division, and about finding new depths of love, vision, and sacrifice.

I believe that Irises will speak not just to Francisco’s many fans in the YA community, but to lovers of books like My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult or The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold:  novels about young women facing life-and-death decisions, for people they love and for themselves. And in these fast-paced times, I truly appreciate you picking up a book that goes beyond easy summary to the very heart of our human dilemmas . . . which sounds cheesy, I know, but what can I do? It’s Francisco X. Stork, and it’s wonderful.

Thank you again for reading Irises, and for sharing it with your fellow readers.

With all best wishes,

Cheryl Klein
Senior Editor


  1. I loved IRISES. In this novel, Francisco Stork pushes YA to do what YA does at its very best, exploring that terrifying and exhilarating razor thin line between a young person as an extension of her parents and that person as the independent beginning of an adult. I felt completely connected to and fascinated by the story of these two sisters and their challenging rapid transition from total dependence to something new and, with a lot of courage and love, something better.

  2. As someone who will never master the elevator speech, I love this.

  3. Thank you for posting this! I've loved Francisco's previous novels and can't wait to read Irises.

  4. "It’s Francisco X. Stork, and it’s wonderful."

    (I liked the whole letter, but that's really all you needed to say.)