It’s been about a month since Chandler Baker’s debut YA novel Alive hit shelves. The time leading up to the release was crazy for Baker – she was busy working on edits to her second novel while still preparing for Alive’s release.
At first glance, Alive appears to be a heart-warming contemporary novel about Stella Cross’s second chance at life. But there’s more than meets the eye – the novel has paranormal undertones that flirt with the dark side.
Alive follows Stella Cross who, after years on the waiting list, finally gets the heart transplant that saves her life. Now she has a second chance at life, one she doesn’t intend to waste. But her road to recovery isn’t easy. She suffers from nightmares and hallucinations and a pain that flares everyday at the same time. Then she meets Levi, the new guy at her Seattle prep school, and they find themselves drawn to each other.
“I hope the message of the book isn’t simply carpe diem because I don’t think that’s what Stella’s journey is,” said Baker. “It’s about finding out what really matters in your life and sometimes it’s not what you originally thought.”
Although Alive has the makings of a second chance at life tale, Stella Cross’s heart transplant is more than that. Her road to recovery isn’t an easy one – her journey is wrought with nightmares and hallucinations, not to mention the strange flare of pain she gets everyday at the same time.
Baker studied Bioethics in college, worked as a student editor on a Bioethics publication, and read as many firsthand accounts of heart transplant patients as she could, putting her in a unique position to write Alive. “There’s a thin line between hardwired biology and psychology and I wanted to explore it.”
While the side effects of Stella’s heart transplant may seem completely fictional to some, real patients of heart transplants have observed the onset what Baker referred to as “heart transplant tendencies” – the taking on of characteristics of their donors.
“That blows my mind because, logically speaking, why would that be? And yet it’s a reported phenomenon.”
While Baker’s novel toes the line between fiction and reality, it also walks the line between life and death. Stella’s been grappling with her own mortality for years as a consequence of being on the waiting list for a heart but Baker also noted that while readers may not be confronting their own mortality like Stella, they’ve likely been impacted by death one way or another.
“Many teens are experiencing their first brushes with death, whether it be grandparents or classmates or what have you. I think most of us remember at least one person from our high school passing away and the shock of reality hitting.”
Confronting death is difficult for everyone but it can be seen as especially startling for teens that have lived their whole lives being told they’re so young, that they have all the time in the world, and who up until this point, have felt invincible.
“It’s not a subject meant to scare teens. It’s not a “you could die at any moment” kind of thing, but rather a way to process the feelings by viewing through the lens of [Stella] wrestling with her own mortality.”