Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten

Saving MaxBook Details:
Saving Max
By Antoinette van Heugten
Genre: Fiction
Published 2010, MIRA Books
Paperback, 375 pages
ISBN: 9780778329633


Max Parkman—autistic and whip-smart, emotionally fragile and aggressive—is perfect in his mother's eyes. Until he's accused of murder.
Attorney Danielle Parkman knows her teenage son Max's behavior has been getting worse—using drugs and lashing out. But she can't accept the diagnosis she receives at a top-notch adolescent psychiatric facility that her son is deeply disturbed. Dangerous.
Until she finds Max, unconscious and bloodied, beside a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death.
Trapped in a world of doubt and fear, barred from contacting Max, Danielle clings to the belief that her son is innocent. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her son really a killer?
With the justice system bearing down on them, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth, no matter what it is. She'll do whatever it takes to find the killer and to save her son from being destroyed by a system that's all too eager to convict him.
Though I was not familiar with this author when I recieved this book, upon reading it I could easily tell that Heugten was well-educated, especially since I actually came across a few words I did not know the meaning of - and I consider myself fairly well-read. Words like eidolon and glistered (both from the same sentence) made me a little intimidated by the book, but I stuck with it anyways.  The prose of the text is written excellently and I thoroughly appreciated the book for this alone.
I was originally drawn to the book because it focuses on a mother's fight for the life and freedom of her son - which I can relate to in some ways. The sub-plots quickly intersect when the mother, Danielle, has to rely on her career as a lawyer to fight for her son while working with another lawyer, who happens to be the man she has a one-night stand with after turning to what she terms as "liquid courage." Some scenes in the plot were quite horrific, especially at the end of the book, but they were necessary to the plot. The psychiatric facility of Maitland where the plot centers at is intended to be the foremost facility of its kind in the country, but I found many of its practices either abysmal or downright terrifying. I found it very satisfying when Max began to take a more active role in his own court case, showing to me that he is indeed in charge of his own faculties (mostly) and not responsible for what he is being accused of. The big revelation that Danielle discovers is incredibly shocking and grotesque and reveals a psychosis I never knew even existed, much less the depths of depravity that it takes a person to. I have no doubt that such individuals exist in real life, though I believe that such people are beyond what psychologists or psychiatrists can fix. These kinds of people either need God or corporal punishment, but that is another soap box for another day.
I found the progression of the plot unpredictable, which is a good thing, but the ending not completely fulfilling, since the author obviously opted to leave one loose thread for a possible sequel. While I normally like book series, in this case I would have much preferred a more rewarding ending.

The Cover: I was given an ARC of this book with a different cover that apparently did not make it to printing. I actually like my cover better than the one shown here, which shows a woman with her fingertips on a foggy glass with a child's hand on the other side of the glass - very cool.

First Line: "She walks down a deserted hallway of the psychiatric hospital, her heels tapping a short staccato on the disinfected floor."
This opening gives a nice background of where much of the book takes place, but there is no excitement to entice me to continue reading.
Favorite Quote: "She will do anything to set him free."

Read For: Pages Read Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*


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