Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hothouse: A novel by Chris Lynch

Hothouse by Chris Lynch is a novel that explores the culture of heroes within the firefighting profession - the accepted notion that whenever a firefighter dies, he is a hero regardless of the circumstances of his/her death.

DJ and Russell have known each other since babyhood. They are named after each other's dad, both of whom were firefighters at the "Hothouse" - the name given to the local fire station. When both of their fathers are killed in the line of duty the community and their firefighting comrades immediately assign them hero status. DJ and Russ must not only deal with their loss but also with the larger-than life image of their fathers as heroes. Suddenly they no longer have to pay bus fare and they are treated with great respect. There's a community barbecue in honor of their dads and an outrageous memorial. It's a image the fire department seems eager to promote until an inquiry calls into question that hero status. Overnight, their hero status unravels.

Now both young men must work through the public persona of "the hero" and the reality of who their fathers were - that they were human beings who were capable of making mistakes. Chris Lynch does this by having Russell tell his relationship with his father in a series of flashbacks. He remembers the dad his father was..."He made me pancakes with faces on them, and a fire helmet on top traced out of licorice...." He remembers the time he save a 13 year old boy who set his house on fire. This is juxtaposed with the community's reaction and perception of his father after the results of the inquiry are leaked. How can Russ come to terms with the man he knew and loved and the man the public seems to think he now was?
For DJ, the situation is more troublesome mainly because from the very beginning he has trouble accepting the hero image of his father. His relationship with his father is less than what Russ had with his dad.

Hothouse also has a second interesting thread throughout it and that is the recovery of a friendship between DJ and Russell. Initially they were childhood friends but somehow drifted apart. Now in trying to come to terms with their fathers deaths and the whole hero situation they gradually reconnect. They are the only ones who understand what each other is going through and it is this bond that helps to re-establish their friendship.

Hothouse is an intense novel that is sure to capture the interest of teen boys. I highly recommend this novel.

Book Details:

Hothouse by Chris Lynch
HarperCollins 2010

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