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Hothouse

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Overview

If you do it right, it can be a life. The hothouse, the guys, the glory. But just like that, it can all go up in smoke.

In the beginning it was strange, ya know, because of all that we had lost. But there was something about it that felt so good and so right, too: "I'm so proud of you, Russ." "We'll always be here for you, man." "Heroes don't pay for nothin' in this town." It was nonstop. The mayor shook my hand. Ladies sent food. I've never ...

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Hothouse

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Overview

If you do it right, it can be a life. The hothouse, the guys, the glory. But just like that, it can all go up in smoke.

In the beginning it was strange, ya know, because of all that we had lost. But there was something about it that felt so good and so right, too: "I'm so proud of you, Russ." "We'll always be here for you, man." "Heroes don't pay for nothin' in this town." It was nonstop. The mayor shook my hand. Ladies sent food. I've never eaten so much baked ham in my life.

And now? Now the phone won't stop ringing from the crazies ready to blame me. My mom has to cry herself to sleep. They take a firefighter, a man, and they pump him up so big. . . . But once they start taking it away from you, they don't stop until they leave nothing on the bones.

First they needed heroes, then they needed blood.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lynch (Inexcusable) again expertly explores the gap between public perception and reality. When Russell's firefighter father dies (along with the father of his childhood friend and neighbor, DJ), the entire town treats the two grieving teenagers as heroes themselves. As Russell deals with adulation that he knows he hasn't earned, the boys learn that there's an investigation into the deaths of their fathers, and that the men may have been at fault. Lynch focuses on Russell's reactions to his own grief, as well as that of his family and DJ, and the gamut of emotions run by their friends, family, and even total strangers. Russell's reactions to everything from the cute girl at his Young Firefighters class who might be interested in him, to the bullying son of a disgraced cop who gleefully taunts him about his father's death drive the majority of the story. Lynch doesn't shy away from unresolved questions and subtle character development, and in the end, questions of heroism and perception take second stage to a nuanced exploration of teenage grief and catharsis. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
BookPage
“Lynch’s writing has a lyrical, almost musical quality. But underneath this, buoying the story all along, is a fighting spirit, a humor, hopefulness and passion for life.
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (Starred Review)
“In Hothouse, Lynch has once again masterfully introduced the reader into the very depths of the young male psyche. Hothouse is a satisfying read, beginning to end.”
Three-time Newbery Honor author Jacqueline Woodson
“Chris Lynch has brought to the page a novel about the depth of loss, the journey to recovery, and all that lies in between. And in his skilled hand, this becomes a story about all of us.”
ALA Booklist
“Russ’ friendships are so real they hurt. The story hurts, too, but that’s how it should be.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
“An understated yet moving story about heroism, community opinion, the evanescence of reputation, and father-son love.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“An understated yet moving story about heroism, community opinion, the evanescence of reputation, and father-son love.”
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“An understated yet moving story about heroism, community opinion, the evanescence of reputation, and father-son love.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“An understated yet moving story about heroism, community opinion, the evanescence of reputation, and father-son love.”
Graham Salisbury
“I cannot recommend this book enough. A winner by all measures. Outstanding!”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"An understated yet moving story about heroism, community opinion, the evanescence of reputation, and father-son love."
Jacqueline Woodson
"Chris Lynch has brought to the page a novel about the depth of loss, the journey to recovery, and all that lies in between. And in his skilled hand, this becomes a story about all of us."
VOYA - Ruth Cox Clark
Many of us remember the point in our lives when we realized our fathers are not perfect. For most people this is not a pleasant memory, but Lynch is a gifted YA author who does not offer his characters, or readers, the easy way out. We meet seventeen-year-old Russell right after his father's death. He's grieving, but unashamedly basking in the attention showered on the son of a fallen hero. His father died while fighting a fire, but Russell is still insistent about his future career: "There is a big hole in the world that is the shape of my father. I intend to fill that hole." When the toxicology results indicate that the two firefighters had alcohol and drugs in their system, Russell is in denial about his father's slow decline into pain medication and alcohol abuse. In contrast, DJ, the son of the other firefighter, is painfully aware of what his father had become. Woven into the tense first-person narrative are Russell's memories of time spent with his father. After a rough-and-tumble game of basketball, his father asked the question that was part of their everyday interaction: "Are ya winnin', son?" Russell replied, "I'm winnin', Dad. Hurtin', but winnin'." His father's response, "Ah . . . that'd be about right then," poignantly closes this coming-of-age novel. Lynch is a master at focusing on the angst, bravado, pain, and doubt of the teenage male. In Hothouse, he does so with such intensity it is as if we invaded the character's privacy. We root for this macho teen as Lynch takes Russell from a boy's one-dimensional hero worship to a young man's realization that accepting a father's faults does not mean you cannot still be proud of him. Reviewer: Ruth Cox Clark
VOYA - Angie Hammond
In Hothouse, Lynch has once again masterfully introduced the reader into the very depths of the young male psyche. This time our young hero is actually an ordinary—or possibly extraordinary—high school senior who must face the truth about the dad he has idolized. Russell's father, like his friend D.J.'s father across the street, is a fireman. Brave, loyal, bigger-than-life, they even sport the trademark handlebar moustaches. When both are killed fighting a blaze in a local house fire, the boys must face sharing the loss with the entire community who want to make them heroes. After the investigation suggests that both men may have been using drugs and alcohol on the night in question, they are instantly seen as villains. Struggling to maintain their own sense of self, separate from their family, is proving to be more difficult than imagined. Weaving tough topics, such as death, friendship, family, school, and identity into a seamless story truthfully portrayed has become Lynch's standard. The reader is soon engulfed in the smooth flow of the story and immediately cares about characters that jump to life, making this an easy book to recommend to almost any reader. Hothouse is a satisfying read, beginning to end. Reviewer: Angie Hammond
Children's Literature - Jody Little
Russell never expected his firefighting father to actually die in a house fire. His father was a local hero, known as "Beast" to his fellow firefighters and Russell plans to become a firefighter just like him. Russell's friend DJ's father also died. Both men were longtime buddies and firefighters, and they lost their lives together. As funerals and barbeques are arranged to celebrate both men's lives, Russell and DJ have different means of coping with their fathers' deaths. Russell strives to keep the memory of his hero father alive, whereas DJ grieves silently and alone. When details about the deathly house fire emerge, including the fact that both men were using drugs and alcohol prior to the house fire, Russell's image of his father is shattered. Telling the story from Russell's point of view with multiple flashbacks, the author gracefully weaves the relationship between father and son, the challenges of a firefighter's life, and the truth of bravery, hero worship, and finding the hero within oneself. Reviewer: Jody Little
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—High school senior Russell and his childhood friend, DJ, cope with the tragic deaths of their firefighter fathers in this contemporary, realistic exploration of the relationships between fathers and sons. Often poignant but never maudlin, Russell's conversational first-person narration takes readers through the teens' tumultuous highs and lows. Initially, Russell and DJ are lauded by the people of their town who hail the fallen firefighters as heroes, but they face a vicious public backlash when it is revealed that their dads were flawed. The tenuous friendship between the two boys, who had drifted apart and are brought together again by their shared loss, is skillfully depicted as they grieve in individual ways. DJ is full of anger, while Russell's pride and love for his father mingle with shame and guilt as he strives to understand who his dad really was. Their relationship comes to life through flashbacks illustrating their bond and deftly hinting at the toll a high-pressure career can take. The struggles in this book are largely internal, with action taking a backseat to Russell's coming-of-age process. As in real life, there is no easy resolution when it comes to grief and healing, but readers are left with a sense of hope for Russell's growth. With a smattering of swear words and underage drinking, this title may be most appropriate for a high school audience.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews

A concise exploration of manhood, heroism and the psychology of a small northern town in the aftermath of a fire that kills two firefighters. Russ, the son of one of the duo now dubbed Outrageous Courageous, is filled with both grief and pride at the town's outpourings of gratitude and hero-worship. Then an investigation reveals more about the incident: The two men abused prescription painkillers and were high the night they died. As the town turns on the two men and their families, Russ struggles to make sense of his adoring but now tainted memories of his father. Brief, evocative flashbacks reveal Russ's relationship with his warm but sometimes reckless father, and Russ's pain and bewilderment are palpable. A climax involving a new fire is too perfectly symbolic to be believed, and a few minor characters—particularly female ones—are vehicles for Russ's self-discovery rather than people in their own right. Nevertheless, this an affecting and insightful drama, if a trifle overdetermined. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061673795
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/24/2010
  • Pages: 198
  • Sales rank: 964,209
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a National Book Award finalist and the author of many highly acclaimed books for young adults, including The Big Game of Everything, Who the Man, and the Michael L. Printz Honor Book Freewill; Iceman, Shadow boxer, Gold Dust, and Slot Machine, all ALA Best Books for Young Adults; and Extreme Elvin. He also mentors aspiring writers and teaches in the creative writing program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2013

    To uch swearing

    I loved this authors vietnam books, but found this sort of dirty with lots of swearing. Disapointing

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2012

    Hot House was a pretty good book even though I thought it was ha

    Hot House was a pretty good book even though I thought it was hard to follow because the story jumped back and forth from when Russell’s dad was alive to when he wasn’t.

    The story has two main characters, Russell and DJ. Their dads were fire fighters and died in the line of duty. They were really respected. DJ and Russell were called “sons of heroes” until everybody thinks that their dads were on drugs and intoxicated when they were on duty, that part of the book I did not care for.

    The boys were really close when they were younger, but now went to different high schools and have drifted apart. Their dads were best friends and each boy was named after the other’s father. Russell tried to get close again to DJ since they were both going through a rough time.

    When DJ and Russell’s fathers died they had so many people come to their houses. A line of people would be standing outside of Russell’s house to shake hands with him and his mom. The line of people would then leave Russell’s house and go across the street to DJ’s house to do the same thing.

    The story pretty much takes place around the town where they live. They were either at home, school, a beach house or the Hot House, which was the fire station that their dads belonged to.

    The conflict of the story was after the autopsy came back, people changed their opinions of the boys and their fathers. They were no longer considered heroes. Russell thought his dad would never to that and wanted to fight for the truth and save his dad’s reputation. DJ was keeping something to himself and was not going to fight.

    I recommend that you read the book to find out if the boys become close again and if the story about their dads was true.

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  • Posted June 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

    Two local firefighters are heroes. They are dubbed Outrageous and Courageous. Members of the fire station, known as the Hothouse, they have rescued many in their careers. Even in this last big fire, they managed to save an old woman, but unfortunately not her cat or themselves.

    Russ and DJ are the sons of those two brave firefighters. The boys are just beginning to adjust to the losses in their lives. The funerals are over and the mourners have left. Now, the remaining family must learn to carry on.

    Over the years, the two boys have grown apart. Best of friends in the early years, they worshiped their fathers and dreamed of following in their footsteps. After awhile they headed in separate directions, different schools and different interests, but now this tragedy has brought them back together. Although each is mourning in his own way, they lean on one another for support.

    After a huge neighborhood celebration honoring the two fallen men, life begins to calm down, and the boys get ready to return to school. They step back into the reality of their old lives just when news reports are released indicating the possible involvement of drugs and alcohol in the deaths of their dads. Russ's reaction is to fight back and prove the rumors untrue, and he is totally shocked that DJ doesn't share the same feelings about the situation. How can people believe that these fine men were anything other than honorable and brave?

    In HOTHOUSE, Chris Lynch portrays two teens struck by tragedy struggling to make sense of the events and connect them to the memories they have of their lost loved ones. Their story is proof that facts can dramatically change when someone scratches below the surface, and what is discovered in the process will often impact the lives of many.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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