Book Review: Skeletons- Elephant: Part 2 by Natalie Rodriguez
- ISBN: 978-0578849010
- Price: INR 291/-
- Genre: Fiction/ Young Adult/ Thriller
When was the last time you confronted the skeletons in your closest?
Immediately following book one, “Elephant,” Matthew “Matty” Smith awakens from his coma and discovers that his worst nightmare is all true: his grandmother, Jamie, and Derek have gone missing and his mother murdered his father and grandfather years ago. With the hospital placing him on lockdown, including no visitation rights by his loved ones such as his best friend, Lisa, Matty finds himself deteriorating into a state of the abyss, consumed with the secrets of his family. Convinced that it was the ‘stranger’ who kidnapped his grandmother and friends, no one believes him.
The hospital only believes that Matty is slipping into a toxic mental state, repeating the cycle of his family. Until one day, Lisa helps Matty escape the hospital. On the run from Dr. Brown, Officer Barry, and the town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Matty and Lisa set off to find their friends and Lucia and for answers on who the ‘stranger’ is. Once they unmask who the ‘stranger’ is, Matty continues to unravel the deepest secrets of what was supposed to be forever hidden in the Smith family as well as the town. This story is for those who feel their voice is unheard and for children, teenagers, and adults who never had the chance to heal from their pain.
Natalie Rodriguez is an award-winning writer, director, and mental health and anti-violence/trauma advocate based in Los Angeles, CA. In 2014, she graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio-Television-Film. Her first experience in entertainment was an internship at the Conan O'Brien show and Peter Guber's Mandalay Pictures, where she worked at the offices of producers, Matthew Rhodes (“Cherry,” "Men in Black: International") and Academy Award-winner, Cathy Schulman ("Sharp Objects," "Crash").
Natalie was also a panelist at events, including Google, Hispanicize, and YouTube, where she has shared her story as a writer, filmmaker, and a female working in the entertainment industry. Some of her previous writing work can be found in publications such as the HuffPost Blog, Thrive Global, Anxiety Resource Center, Opposing Views, NowThis News, Zooey Deschanel's Hello Giggles, The Mighty, and more. In 2017, she founded her production company, Extraordinary Pictures, focusing on both films, television, digital series, and social issue projects.
The company has a list of projects in its roaster, including development on a TV sitcom, "The D," which placed in top-ten for best comedy screenplays at Stage 32. At the moment, Natalie’s second directorial feature film, “Howard Original,” is in post-production and set for an August 2020 release date on YouTube Premium. The film is based on the award-winning short film about a washed-up screenwriter named Howard, who encounters more than just selling a story, a studio rejection, and writer's block when his pet cat comes to life. Natalie’s directorial feature film, "The Extraordinary Ordinary," which she also wrote, produced, and was the executive producer on, is making its round through the festival circuit. The film deals with young adults, mental health awareness, and the aftermath of trauma.
The film won ‘Best Film About Women’s Empowerment' at the Glendale International Film Festival and scored nominations in Best Director, Best Female Director, and Best Picture. The film also had a sold-out world premiere screening at the Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival (LADFF), winning ‘Best Performance’ by the leading actress, Maddison Bullock. Further details on the project can be found @theextraordfilm, including recent film festival awards and nominations. Her other screenplays and films have also been featured and placed in the final rounds at HollyShorts Film Festival, NALIP: Latino Lens Film Festival, ShortsTV, Stage 32: Comedy Screenplay, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival, Indie Night Film Festival, Hollywood Screenplay Contest, Table Read My Screenplay - Austin Film Festival, and others. Natalie was most recently an ambassador for Jen Zeano Designs (JZD), a clothing company in association with USA Networks. While she continues to build her creative background, Natalie is always open to collaborating with other artists and advocates. Currently, she awaits the publication of her first young adult novel this April 2020, "Elephant," a story about four childhood best friends who uncover a family secret. The book was also a finalist at Clare Books' the Binge-Watching Cure II contest for 'Best Novel.’ For details on previous and upcoming projects, be sure to check out @natchristinerod and @extraordpictures.
This book is the second part of the author's previous book called Elephant whose review you can read HERE.
Both the books deal with the same theme of trauma and mental health. Falling into the category of Young Adult suspense/ thriller, this book deals with abuse, childhood trauma, and its long-term implications at length.
The story picks up from where Book # 1 Elephant had ended with Matthew Smith going into a coma. This book starts with him waking up from a coma to discover his friends and loved ones are missing, while his father and grandfather have been killed by his own mother.
Alone, hurt, and grieving, Matthew's mental health takes a toll after the recent discoveries. His friend Lisa helps him escape the hospital and they embark on a journey to discover the hidden secrets. The rest of the story is about what they discover, how they discover it, and how it impacts Matthew's life.
The poignancy in the story is intact as is the rawness. It touches a raw nerve within your heart as you read about the ugly truths of life and how deeply it impacts some of us.
The choice of title is so brilliant. By Skeletons, she is trying to talk about the skeletons we hide in our closets. From our past, the dirty and dark secrets of the family, which keep haunting us for generations.
As a side note, I loved the detailing the author has done for both the books in terms of titles, cover pages, and the blurb. The minimalist covers in shades of black and white with the title in grey depict how life isn't all black and white. It also has shades of grey which sometimes can be scary and horrifying. Exceptional attention to detail and brownie points to the author for that for both the books!
The writing is deeply melancholic and full of emotions. In some places, it won't be wrong to call the narrative disturbing. However, that is perhaps the aim of the writer. To make you uncomfortable, to make you feel the pain, the fear, and the trauma the characters are going through deep enough to jolt you off your rosy reality and accept the other version of the truth that exists around in this world.
The last time I had felt so disturbed was when I read Veronica decides to die by Paulo Coelho. As someone who has perhaps lived half of her life with depression, the thought of death isn't alien at all. And then seeing it written about so much, so honestly and openly was scary.
Yes! The fear is what makes us not want to read such books. The ugliness is something we cannot bear to see and feel scared. But beyond that fear is where the healing lies and I am glad I decided to read these books. For they have helped me heal in various ways.
The element of mystery or suspense is something that stems up from discovering hidden truths about your family and the generations before your parents and/or grandparents. That is what pulled me deeper into the story. Because I have always believed, it is not the people in the outside world who can break you beyond repair. It is always people within your own house who can do that.
Frankly, as a reader it a huge thing to be able to finally read books that talk so well about childhood abuse, trauma, dysfunctional families, PTSD, and other such aspects. It is not something that can be seen much but is definitely something we all should be talking about.
Definitely recommended as a reader, however with a bit of a trigger warning to read it with an open mind and only when you are in the mental capacity to fully comprehend the contents without triggering yourself.