Reviewed by Grace Soledad

Irises is not the type of book that I would normally pick up for myself, but I found myself surprisingly loving it. The book is simply about sisters trying to find themselves when everything around them is falling apart. When Kate and Mary’s father dies, they find themselves alone with nobody else but each other. Their mother has been in a permanent vegetative state for three years and their preacher is barely more than a stranger to them.

Kate has always dreamed of being a doctor and getting her M.D. at Stanford. The problem is that her father had always expected her to stay home and take care of her mother and sister. Although she wants nothing more than to leave it all behind, she is held back by her sense of duty. Mary is an artistic spirit, a girl wrapped up in her own dreams and struggles of being an artist.

When their father dies, the two girls are filled with grief, but lurking on the edges of their minds is the word freedom. Although things are tough financially, Kate can now go to Stanford and Mary can stay home and paint if she wishes.

Just as their lives seem to settle down, three men enter the sister’s lives. Two of them are Kate’s toughest choice yet. Her old boyfriend Simon has just proposed to her, but she finds herself having feelings for the young preacher that her father taught – Reverend Andy Soto. Mary is infatuated with Marcos, a gang member; Marcos is dangerous, and Mary is not sure whether to pursue the relationship or run away from it.

When their mother’s life is put on the line, Kate and Mary must choose between keeping their family together and chasing their dreams.

Irises was very thought-provoking and earnest, but in a quiet way. It felt more like a whisper than a shout. Its main focus was on family, and how far you should go to provide for them without giving up your own identity. The promise of a book about the sister’s relationship was what drew me in and it’s what makes Irises truly special.

This novel was by far character driven. It was amazing to read about the range of emotions and conflicted feelings that Kate and Mary shared. There was a fine line between what they each wanted to be and what they were expected to be. People thought that Kate was selfish for wanting to leave her family behind and go to Stanford, but they didn’t know that it was killing her inside. Mary seemed carefree on the surface, but secretly struggled just as much as her sister.

Honest and sweet, Irises explores grief and family. It was stunning to read, and was complex in a way that’s hard to describe. It touches you and makes you think about what you leave behind when you chase your dreams.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Grace Soledad is a teenage bibliophile who runs the blog Words Like Silver. She is described as “antisocial” because she constantly has her nose buried in a book or a notebook. When not reading, she can be found dancing, writing, or at the beach.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Arthur A. Levine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.