Stahler, David, Jr.
Stahler, David, Jr.
Married; children: one son. Education: Middlebury College, B.A., 1994; Dartmouth College, M.A.
Lyndon Institute (private high school), Lyndon Center, VT, English teacher; writer.
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS; "TRUESIGHT" TRILOGY
Truesight, Eos (New York, NY), 2004.
The Seer, Eos (New York, NY), 2007.
Otherspace, Eos (New York, NY), 2008.
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS; OTHER
A Gathering of Shades, HarperTempest (New York, NY), 2005.
Doppelganger, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
David Stahler, Jr., has written several young adult novels that incorporate supernatural elements. His debut, Truesight, began a trilogy set on a planet where the inhabitants have been genetically engineered to be blind, and one teenage boy develops the ability to see. The Seer and Otherspace complete the trilogy. Stahler's other works include A Gathering of Shades, focusing on the intersection between a boy's grief and the supernatural, and Doppelganger, about a shape-shifter experiencing a crisis of conscience.
In Truesight, thirteen-year-old protagonist Jacob has grown up blind, as has everyone on his planet, but finds his sight restored after a bout with serious headaches. He then becomes disturbed by what he witnesses around him. His society, supposedly "pure" because sightlessness allows its people to reject such superficial considerations as appearance, is actually a hypocritical, immoral, tightly controlled system. When Jacob's ability to see is discovered by the authorities and he is scheduled for sight-removal, he decides to risk his life and leave the safety of his closed environment.
Stahler's first novel received some praise from critics. Paula Rohrlick, reviewing Truesight in Kliatt, praised the book as a "strong debut," while a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "although the story line can be easily anticipated, Stahler's supple writing and unusual twist should keep readers firmly hooked." John Peters, writing in School Library Journal, found the novel "a throught-provoking tale strongly reminiscent of Lois Lowrey's The Giver."
In the next entry in the trilogy, The Seer, Jacob finds a community of sighted people, where his friend Delaney, a musician, is being enslaved and exploited by greedy corporate types. He wants to rescue her; assisting him in this effort is Xander, a onetime soldier of fortune whom Jacob had encountered in the desert. Xander, Jacob, and Delaney form a close bond, but Delaney wants to go back to her and Jacob's home colony, Harmony, even though she had been exiled from there. Also, Jacob is having frightening dreams of the future.
Again, several critics found reason to recommend Stahler's work, although some voiced reservations as well. "Themes of trust, fitting in, dependency, and making choices will appeal to young readers," remarked Ann Robinson in School Library Journal, adding that the author makes much metaphorical use of the concepts of sight and blindness. A Kirkus Reviews commentator deemed some of this imagery "heavy-handed," but added that Stahler is laying out "newer mysteries" that "compel." While Paula Rohrlick, again writing for Kliatt, thought the story of Delaney's rescue "predictable," she noted that "readers curious about Jacob's fate will want to continue the saga."
In the nonseries novel A Gathering of Shades, sixteen-year-old Aidan discovers that his grandmother has secretly been feeding ghosts to keep their souls lingering between life and death. After his father passes away, the boy, devastated by his loss, is drawn into the world of the dead and finds himself separated from those still living who love him. Some reviewers thought Stahler explored the theme of loss effectively, while offering well-crafted prose and three-dimensional characters. A Kirkus Reviews critic said the novel's depth raises it "above the formulaic and closer to magic realism," and also praised the "intricate plot" and "fully realized characters." In School Library Journal, Jane Cronkhite noted the parallels to Homer's Odyssey and called A Gathering of Shades "well written," adding that Stahler's exploration of "issues of grief and recovery" will appeal to "thoughtful teens."
Doppelganger takes its title from a type of supernatural being that assumes the form of a human it has killed. The novel deals particularly with a doppelganger who kills teenager Chris Parker, a high school football star with numerous problems. Chris has an abusive father, is himself abusive to his girlfriend, and is beating up an elderly man at the time he encounters the doppelganger. The doppelganger resolves to live a better life than the human Chris has, but he runs into some difficulties, including another, less scrupulous doppelganger. Some reviewers found the novel both exciting and thoughtful. June H. Keuhn, writing in School Library Journal, noted that this "compelling horror story" explores "the difference that certain decisions can make in life." It shows that some decisions, added a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "might be unpopular, but are undoubtedly right." This critic also described the book as "an interesting read," while Paula Rohrlick, reviewing for Kliatt, dubbed it "a riveting tale."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2006, April Spisak, review of Doppelganger, p. 36; May, 2007, Katrina Bromann, The Seer, p. 38.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of Truesight, p. 89; May 15, 2005, review of A Gathering of Shades, p. 596; April 15, 2006, review of Doppelganger, p. 416; March 15, 2007, review of The Seer.
Kliatt, January, 2004, Paula Rohrlick, review of Truesight, p. 13; May 1, 2006, Paula Rohrlick, review of Doppelganger, p. 15; March 1, 2007, Paula Rohrlick, review of The Seer, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, February 16, 2004, review of Truesight, p. 173.
School Library Journal, March, 2004, John Peters, review of Truesight, p. 220; August, 2005, Jane Cronkhite, review of A Gathering of Shades, p. 136; June 1, 2006, June H. Keuhn, review of Doppelganger, p. 166; August 1, 2007, Ann Robinson, review of The Seer, p. 126.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2006, Angela Semifro, review of Doppelganger, p. 66.
Green Man Review Online, http://www.greenmanreview.com/ (August 8, 2004), Elizabeth Vail, review of Truesight.