Maddy's Reviews > Cold Springs

Cold Springs by Rick Riordan
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Jun 02, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 2003-reads
Read in April, 2002

RATING: 3.5

Katherine Chadwick is a confused young woman who is going through all the trials of growing up. She's taken some wrong turns with her life, most notably by becoming involved with drugs, but her parents believe that she has turned the corner. They are testing Katherine and themselves by going out for an evening with their friends, Ann and John Zedman, while Katherine remains at home babysitting 6-year-old Mallory Zedman. But Katherine hasn't put her demons behind her. She takes Mallory with her and makes a drug buy, returns home and overdoses. Mallory is the one who first knows that something is wrong, and the horror of finding her beloved babysitter dead is something that has a permanent impact on her life.

Move forward several years, and we find that Mallory is following a path that is frighteningly reminiscent of Katherine's. Her parents are divorced, as are the Chadwicks. Mr. Chadwick has turned from teaching to becoming an escort for young people in trouble. At their parents' behest, he searches for these youngsters and transports them to "Cold Springs" which is a kind of boot camp environment in Texas where they are rehabilitated through hard work and tough love. They are taught survival principles with the ultimate aim of being returned as functioning members of society.

Frantic at Mallory's drug use and her association with undesirable people, Ann arranges for Chadwick to get Mallory into Cold Springs. She is exceptionally resistant, and it appears at first that the program will not take. But as she gradually accepts some of its teachings, she finds some valuable life lessons and begins to move toward recovery. At the same time, Ann Zedman is experiencing massive professional problems; John Zedman is involved in some nefarious dealings; and Chadwick's ex-wife, Norma has various problems coming her way.

The opening chapter of the book almost put me off continuing in to the narrative, as the various characters were laden with various emotional trauma—infidelity, whining and crying about an unsuitable spouse, a case of low self-esteem run amok. No emotional connection had been established with any of these characters, and I was unprepared to feel any kind of rapport with them or sympathy for them. If Riordan had built the opening around Katherine and her situation only and continued by concentrating on Mallory, I think the book would have been stronger all around.

Riordan did an exceptional job in developing the character of Mallory, and I was thoroughly engaged in the portions of the narrative that dealt with her problems, how she was adapting to Cold Springs, what she was doing to improve her life. Even though Katherine didn't have much page time, I felt the same connection to her. Oddly, the various secondary characters such as Norma Chadwick and the Zedmans never came to life for me. They certainly were facing a lot of horrible situations, but I really didn't care about what happened to them at all. At times, the writing seemed overwrought and the resolution came out of left field.

Riordan has made a huge departure from this Tres Navarre series books. COLD SPRINGS is an ambitious work with a complex narrative and wonderfully written prose. In spite of the problems I had with many of the sub-plots, I found that I cared about the character of Mallory and that Riordan did an excellent job in developing that portion of the book.

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