Meet 14-year-old Sean Malone. He has an IQ above 200, a full-ride scholarship to one of the country's top universities, and more than one million dollars from his winning streak on Jeopardy. However, Sean wishes he could just be normal. But his life is anything but normal. The US government manipulates him, using him as a codebreaker in pursuit of a drug lord and killing innocent people along the way. For reasons related to his personal security, Sean finds himself in Rome, building a new life under a new name, abandoning academics, and hiding his genius from everyone. When he's 18 he falls in love. The thrills begin again when he learns that his girlfriend is critically ill and it's up to him to use his intellect to find a cure, a battle pitting him against a multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical company and the demons of his past. Elixir is a story about identity, secrets, and above all, love.
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Elixir is a YA suspense and the debut novel by Ted Galdi. Galdi did a fine job for a debut novel. There is good intrigue and decent plot development and a nice wrap-up for a standalone novel, all the while leaving the story open for any sequel, should the author change his mind.
The main character, Sean Malone, is inarguably the smartest person on earth with an IQ in the neighborhood of 250. His face became nearly unforgettable after appearing on Jeopardy at the age of 11 and winning over a million dollars before stepping down. This all but prevents a private “normal” life for him. Orphaned and under the guardianship of his aunt, Sean, age 14 at the beginning of the novel, attends SoCalTech and he unwittingly brings additional attention upon him when he solves a yet-unsolvable mathematical problem thus drawing the notice of the NSA for the code-breaking application of his solution. In an effort to keep this review spoiler-free, more things happen such that with the FBIs assistance Sean’s death is faked so that he can be kept out of harm’s way. The second half of the story jumps ahead four years when Sean, 18 and now living in Italy, meets and falls in love with Natasha, the woman of his dreams. Sean’s problem-solving intelligence is needed when Natasha is brought to the edge of death from a disease contracted while her family vacationed in Africa. Really. A bit far reaching, but this is a work of fiction.
I requested the audio book version of this book through Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review. As such, I cannot fairly comment on the edited status of the print version of this story. The plot development, character development and dialogue, as read by the narrator, are respectably sufficient. The story premise was interesting and the dialogue and subject matter is by and large age-appropriate for a YA audience. I am not certain that this YA will draw an adult audience.
There were several situations in the story which were vague in description, action which did not appear logical or connect to consequences and several characters’ actions that seemed specious, all requiring a leap of faith. How the solving of the Traveling Salesman Dilemma, the initial yet-unsolvable mathematical problem mentioned above, leads to code-breaking was unexplained, and yet, this pivotal connection leads to NSA activity which leads to another development which leads to necessitating Sean’s (faked) death. This influential element of the story seems non sequitur. The love-story element between Sean and Natasha was developed very quickly and feels more superficial than meaningful, and yet, it is this love that causes Sean to bring himself out of hiding to save her life. This relationship seems unconvincing in its depth – just because the relationship exists doesn’t mean its depth is believable, unless of course your audience can accept it without supporting substance. And, the disease that Natasha contracts for which Sean is able to create an “elixir” in mere hours after ingesting knowledge from extensive reports and studies hacked from a high level security-safe server that took a mere 10 minutes to hack into? I understand the boy is extremely intelligent, but too much must be “accepted” such that this story is better categorized as fantasy rather than suspense.
As for the audio version of this story, Elixir was read by Roberto Scarlato and is 9 hours and 41 minutes in duration. The end-product was good in that there are no extraneous noises to draw away the listener’s attention, no empty-room tinny sound. The narrator’s voice was fine, but added nothing to the listening experience. The reader read with virtually no emotion – no tenderness in the main character’s voice for Natasha, no fear or tension in the voices of the characters when the scenes are suspenseful and only the briefest hint of accenting in the voices. The reader simply read the book. Unfortunately, the reader countlessly paused as if a comma or period were in the text when the print should not have a comma in the sentence or the sentence did not yet end. When the listener has only the reader’s voice, comma-pauses (or period pauses) where there are not or should not be commas (or periods) requires the listener to come out of the story and make the mental correction for the sound of an error.
I would recommend this book to readers of YA. My other comments aside, this is an entertaining, interesting story. I would be comfortable allowing my teenagers to read this. I commend Mr. Galdi on this first novel and wish him every success with any future books.
Audiobook provided for review by the author.
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Interesting idea for a story
This is a debut novel of Ted Galdi. It is a thriller that follows a teenage genius as he does battle against certain officials within the United States government and a shady pharmaceutical company.
Life for Sean Malone is unusual. He is supposed to have an IQ of 250. He gained fame as an eleven year old by winning over a million dollars on Jeopardy. It was the mention of Jeopardy that caught my attention and made me decide to read the book. After I got the book I discovered it is classified as a YA Sci-Fi/Techno Thriller.
Elixir is well written with an interesting premise but I needed to completely suspend my scientific knowledge to follow the story. The action is fast pace and believable. The characterization within the story is somewhat lacking, only Sean seemed real. Although I could see when the story was attempting to hook the reader, it didn’t hook me. I was unable to forget everything I know about science to enjoy the story. I like to read an author’s debut book and often I find another author to follow. Roberto Scarlato narrated the book.