Bites

Pub date: January 28, 2012.

Author website.

Teenagers Polly and Odd are the only survivors of a MRSA (Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus–also known as flesh-eating bacteria) outbreak that killed several people in their town.

They did not survive unscathed, however. Polly lost an eye and her face is horribly scarred; Odd lost his foot and is tortured by phantom pain. The two had no connection to each other prior to the MRSA outbreak. Polly was going to marry Bridger, her longtime boyfriend, and continue down the road toward normal adulthood and domestic felicity (kids, house, etc.). Odd’s ticket out was football. Now those plans are gone, and Polly and Odd have nothing but each other–the residents in their small Montana hometown are decidedly uncomfortable around these two who survived– and a shared affection for trout fishing. So when Odd shows up in his grandmother’s 1979 Cadillac D’Elegance, promising a day on the river, it’s pretty clear that a more remarkable journey is in store for the two of them. (goodreads.com)

Aside from the fact that I would be perfectly content living in a bubble as I now see little squiggly germy death on every door handle, I hate it when I’m at a loss for words on a book. Like stomp my feet, hold my breath until the words come hate. Considering that’d be counter-productive I won’t do it. But it doesn’t make me happy.
There is nothing bad about CATCH & RELEASE. Not a thing. Except it might make you a disciplined germaphobe to an extreme. But aside from that, there’s nothing even remotely wrong about it. The voice is perfect. And I mean perfect. Woolston has captured Polly’s voice so amazingly that that’s all I can say about it. It’s amazing. Reading Polly’s words you get a sense of the person that she used to be before MRSA. There’s a hint of it still lingering but it’s all dripping in bitterness and disdain because of what she’s lost. There were times where I was getting frustrated with how she was thinking and reacting to things but you catch yourself. Instead of spiraling the thought about her being an overreacting drama queen, the words hitch in your brain and you can’t help but ask yourself, ‘if you lost a third of your face, including one of your eyes, how would you feel?’ It would be hard enough for an adult to cope with something like that but a teenager? At the beginning of the book Polly’s consigned herself to her couch for the rest of her life. Her life is over. By the end she’s been, well, released, and you watch her transform from someone who hides, who throws in the cards, who wants revenge, to someone that just releases all of that anger and hatred and bitterness and starts over. And you can feel how monumental that step was.
I was less than thrilled with Odd but his reactions to things become clearer at the end of the story so I won’t ruin that one. But it’s funny with Odd because the story is in Polly’s voice so you see him as she sees him and at times he can be a dick. But then you get to see Polly through Odd’s eyes and it’s when you can get out of her head and see from another angle how she was acting and how it was perceived by others that maybe it was a little over the top. Considering this was viewed by another MRSA survivor that lost his leg, he could relate to her pain and as such is in a position to tell her to get over it, in his own unique way.
The dirt and grime and grit that they slough through on their trip is something palpable. Especially when Polly gets her period. I’ll leave you to that. But you get a sense that as they travel along, they’re picking up more and more crap but leaving just as much of it behind. They’re both coming to terms with what’s happened to them but they’re doing it in the only way they each know how. As the road before them becomes less and less visible, they each take their own paths and any fear that’s there manifests and then fizzles as one steps up to help the other. You can’t help but watch the steps up they take, some of the tumbles that result, but the ultimate moving on that they’re both doing.
Before this runs the risk of de-evolving into a nonsensical meandering of a review I’ll end it here. I’ll conclude with the offering of awesomeness to that which is CATCH & RELEASE. While I loved it, I wasn’t in love it with, hence “just” a four rating. It is truly awesome but it didn’t quite hit me in my cockle region to rank it higher. But it’s more than just your average contemporary novel about teens coming to terms with themselves and finding their place in life. These teens had something monstrous happen to them and as a result were effectively pushed out of society to deal with it on their own. Which they did. And they’re forcing their way back in. You can’t help but feel moved as you read it. And just a little squicked out. I’ll be honest. I micromanage my papercuts now.

Ban Factor: High – Swearing and the general ickiness of MRSA could have the banners screaming about this one. The MRSA alone would be far too much for such young eyes to handle.

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