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What Is Real
     

What Is Real

2.0 2
by Karen Rivers
 

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Dex Pratt's life has been turned upside down. His parents have divorced and his mother has remarried. When his father attempts suicide and fails, Dex returns to their small town to care for him. But heís not prepared for how much everything has changed. Gone are the nice house, new cars, fancy bikes and other toys. Now he and his wheelchair-bound dad live in a

Overview

Dex Pratt's life has been turned upside down. His parents have divorced and his mother has remarried. When his father attempts suicide and fails, Dex returns to their small town to care for him. But heís not prepared for how much everything has changed. Gone are the nice house, new cars, fancy bikes and other toys. Now he and his wheelchair-bound dad live in a rotting rented house at the back of a cornfield. And, worse, his father has given up defending marijuana growers in his law practice and has become one himself.

Unable to cope, Dex begins smoking himself into a state of surrealism. He begins to lose touch with what is real and what he is imagining. And then there are the aliens...and the girl-of-his-dreams...and the crop circleÖ .

Editorial Reviews

readingtimbits.blogspot.com
"An edgy and surreal teen read...Rivers challenges readers to think about their own perceptions of reality, to think about the validity and reliability of memory, and most of all, to ask the question that makes up the title of this book—what is real?"
Booklist
"Rivers writes in a first-person present-tense narrative that is true to a young stoner's wild, muddled viewpoint...Even if teens skim over some passages, the story's central dramas will hold them: a lost kid, angry and loving, who cares for a disabled parent as he tries to block out secrets and lies."
CM Magazine
"An intriguing read...The reader is left with interesting thoughts to ponder upon—what's real and what's a dream? Highly Recommended."
Readingtimbits.blogspot.com
"An edgy and surreal teen read...Rivers challenges readers to think about their own perceptions of reality, to think about the validity and reliability of memory, and most of all, to ask the question that makes up the title of this book—what is real?"
Library Media Connection
"A tale of teenage angst exceptionally written in lyrical, hallucinogenic prose...Interspersed throughout the novel, Dex breaks from first-person narrative to a screenplay outline. This method of storytelling eloquently conveys the out-of-body distancing Dex employs to not only avoid pain, but to embrace and digest his roiling emotions...This novel satisfies as a realistic young adult title and soulful rendering of teenage foibles. It will appeal to reluctant readers."
Southwest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries (SWON)
"Rivers has a unique voice and uses this talent to create a complicated novel about the possible dangers of teen drug abuse....The novel's themes of expectation and change are very well handled."
BC Bookworld
"One of the most compelling aspects of this novel is that, just like Dex, the reader cannot fully decipher what is real...Rivers' prose is splintered and abrupt, just like human thoughts can be, and her writing style creates a sense of immediacy and confusion by throwing the reader into the middle of the action...Rivers has capably illuminated the teenage struggle to cope with life's challenges: losing loved-ones, being neglected, realizing you may not achieve your dreams and dealing with failure."
Resource Links
"Dex is an appealing character...He has an essential honesty and a kind of self-awareness that causes the reader to empathize with his awful plight...We are sucked into Dex's quite extraordinary imagination which kind of takes us as the readers into a kind of unanticipated surrealism."
Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group
"An excellent example of what happens to a person's mind when they are on drugs."
Children's Literature - Jeanne K. Pettenati J.D.
Seventeen-year-old Dex Pratt is a drug addict. He's taking care of his disabled father, who tried to commit suicide after his wife left him for another man. Dex's father grows weed in the basement of their rented house, which is owned by Our Joe, an old man who abused his granddaughter, who is now our protagonist's girlfriend. An upbeat story this is not. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that Dex's step-brother died of a heroin overdose. In fact, the text is very disjointed given that Dex is often high and can't tell readers whether something is real or he is imagining it. Dex claims that his life was a fairy tale before his mother left, but clearly he just remembers what was on the surface. Now he feels his hopes and dreams have been squashed, which leads to making bad choices. This is a tough story to read, on many levels. I wish I could say that I cared more about the characters or that the plot was compelling. It is true that many adolescents must live through horrific life situations, often not of their making. The author has spun such a story, but it falters without a strong center to hold it together. The language and topics covered make this book inappropriate for middle schoolers. Reviewer: Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—When Dex's dad attempts to commit suicide, the 17-year-old aspiring writer-director leaves his prep-school life with his mom and stepdad and returns to the small town where he grew up to take care of his disabled father. There he finds that his dad has started a full-scale marijuana growing operation, and Dex starts partaking in the crop so extensively that his reality and fantasies start to converge. The story alternates between a screenplay Dex is writing and his first-person perspective, and the confusing narration leaves readers unsure about what's imaginary and what's real. It touches on heavy topics-suicide, drug abuse, sex, and love-but without delving deeply into any of them. While Dex is well developed, the other characters never seem to move beyond vague caricatures, making their relationships difficult to understand and the plot less than engaging.—Sharon Senser McKellar, Oakland Public Library, CA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781554693566
Publisher:
Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
05/01/2011
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile:
HL520L (what's this?)
Age Range:
15 - 18 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

My life used to be a glass pitcher of white, pure, clean, delicious milk just bubbling over with goddamn wholesomeness. My entire life. My whole family was shiny and perfect, snipped right out of the stereotype catalogue: Mom, Dad, me, Chelsea, and our loyal dog, Glob...

I'm seventeen now, and that's all gone. Seventeen doesn't sound old. But it is. Trust me.

Meet the Author

Karen Rivers is the author of fourteen novels, mostly for young adults. Her books have been nominated for a number of awards, including the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize and the Silver Birch Award. Karen lives, reads and writes in a yellow house near the beach in Victoria, British Columbia, and can almost always be found online at www.karenrivers.com..

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What Is Real 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
Dex narrates the story of a month of his life, plus a few pages about "Now" and a bit of the past. His wheelchair-bound dad has Dex growing pot in their basement and Dex's story is pot-induced, forcing the reader to wonder if Dex's reality is, in fact, the truth. At times the story reads like a screenplay. There is plenty of language which makes this more appropriate for older teens. I just couldn't get into this book.
epicrat More than 1 year ago
Lost in the pot-induced haze in the cornfields behind his house, Dex Pratt cannot tell the difference between reality and fiction - or even past and present and future - any more. He smokes until he forgets everything, until nothing makes any sense anymore - and somehow that makes that makes the most sense of all. When he begins to obsess over the new girl and a crop circle mysteriously appears, Dex knows that something might be wrong. Yet he can't seem to clear his head long enough to figure out what that might be. I have to admit that I felt as confused about What is Real as Dex was throughout the entire book. The screenplay-like beginning threw me off, and when it reverted back to regular prose I still didn't quite follow the story as easily. If Karen Rivers was trying for surreal, I think she nailed it on the dot - unfortunately, this did not work for me and I struggled to connect with Dex. He seemed to bounce from past to present, regular prose to screenplay, hypothetical people to real people, whenever he felt like it - and I couldn't keep up. The best way I can describe What is Real is that it is definitely different from other books, a little too "out there" for someone like me. I'd be interested to see how others have taken to this book because I feel like I missed some crucial element that makes this book "click" with me.