Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Raising: A Novel / by Laura Kasischke

It's been over a year since a tragic car crash took the life of Nicole Werner, a beautiful, blond straight-A college student. Though herself a fatal casualty, her boyfriend Craig, the driver at the time, survived the accident with only a slight concussion. Now Craig, still devastated and even a bit hazy about the night in question, must endure Nicole's up-in-arms sorority sisters who lay the blame squarely on his shoulders. They're suspicious of Craig and his "miraculous" survival, but also for his unlikely position inside the university's selective Honors College, a prestigious program they believe Craig gained entry into because his wealthy, well-connected father. That Craig has attained the reputation of a spoiled rich kid hasn't helped his cause. If Craig's dad has such pull with regards to his son's academic placement, why couldn't he also have arranged it so that his son could be excused of any wrongful doings in regards to Nicole's death.

The sorority girls, spearheaded by Nicole's near-malevolent former roommate, are right about one thing: Craig's dad did get him into Honors College. But while there's certainly some mystery surrounding the accident, it's nothing to do with Craig so much as it is the totally inaccurate news articles chronicling the incident. For one thing, it mentions there were no eyewitnesses, an incredibly falsefied statement as there was an eyewitness, Shelly Lockes, whose story was told to the authorities in detail and has exactly nothing in common with how the accident was publically portrayed. Meanwhile Perry, a roommate of Craig and childhood friend of Nicole, has grown extremely suspicious of all that happened and has even begun to think that Nicole may not be dead. With the aid of a few friends, Shelly included, Perry begins to dig through the mystery, ultimately dumbfounded by what he finds.

This recent 'campus novel' by University of Michigan professor and midwest native is a Hollywood screenplay waiting to happen, though you can probably foresee which parts would have to be omitted for time. Suspicious deaths, dorm room drama, urban legends, incredible conspiracies and young love all seem like the perfect ingredients for yet another movie exclusively marketed to 18-25-ers. And while not the most taut pyschological thrillers--jamming in some seriously dubious (and possibly over-the-top) scenarios into one novel--the book delivers on intrigue, character development and mysterious undercurrents. There are indeed a lot of hypothetical what ifs and questionable connections in The Raising, but Kasischke writes accessible prose and is familiar with her environment so that even the most out-there bits are never too, too far from the main story. And it may surprise the reader that for such a lengthy novel (nearly 500 pages), the plot moves fairly swiftly with plenty of suspense and anticipation within each character's little story. For readers, both young and old, just wanting a good time won't want to miss out. (FIC KASISCHK) 

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