Reviewed by Karin Perry for TeensReadToo.com
John, a sixteen-year-old high school graduate, has a great life ahead of him. He has already been accepted into the pre-med program at USC and looks forward to beginning his prestigious career. One of his favorite people in the world, Kane, a long-time family friend, has invited him to spend the summer in New York City. Excitement fills John's heart as he sets off for a summer of independence.
Once in New York, Kane and John take in the sites, go out to eat, and start settling into a routine. While helping Kane unpack one evening, John comes across some information that leads to a deep family secret. He sees a birth certificate that lists Kane as his father. When confronted, Kane admits that he is indeed John's father and goes about telling the story of how he has always loved John's mother and had a romantic interlude with her only a few days prior to her wedding to another man, the man John has always assumed was his father. John's world turns upside down.
His world becomes even more confusing when Kane walks in the door after working at the hospital one day and tells John that he received an anonymous letter that threatens John's safety. Kane says he has informed the police and they are attempting to locate the person who sent the letter, but until then, John will have to remain in the apartment and stay hidden. John is shocked and nervous about the threats. He does all he can to occupy himself during the day, including work that will prepare him for his college classes that Kane ordered for him. The only bright spot in his day was if Kane made it home for lunch. John would sit, staring at the door, hoping to hear the sound of keys jingling as they entered the lock on the front door. John would listen to stories about Kane's day, living vicariously through him.
One day, John can't stand it anymore. He feels like he is going crazy cooped up in the apartment all day, only being able to watch others walking freely outside. He decides to slip down into the courtyard of the apartment building and get some fresh air. Everything works out fine. No one sees him. He breathes in the fresh air and basks in the sunshine, even taking off his shirt so he can feel the heat on his body. He makes it back upstairs without any incident and feels satisfied that he got away with his adventure. Until Kane comes home that evening. John didn't take into account that the sun might burn his skin. Kane can see the severe sunburn and explodes in anger over John's carelessness. This event leads to even more confinement for John.
Eventually, John is locked in his room at all times without clothes and other necessities. For a time, he is even nude, having to beg Kane for clothes and food. Kane explains that this is an opportunity for them to bond as father and son because John must rely on Kane for everything, like a baby does from his parents.
Finally, after having enough, John confronts Kane, which leads him to several realizations about himself, the situation he is in, and about Kane. AN OPEN VEIN is a psychological thriller that forces the reader to ask why. Why does John allow himself to be completely dominated by Kane? Why is Kane treating John so badly? Is it possible to forgive an abuser? The author does a fantastic job of putting the reader into the story. We feel what John feels and celebrate when he is finally released from the prison he is forced to live in with Kane.
And I thought doctors were supposed to be the good guys.
J. M. Warwick crafts an odd tale with An Open Vein, centered around the gifted 16-year-old John, who flies from the west coast to the east to visit with his adopted uncle Kane for a while. But he winds up with so much more than he originally bargained for. While John contemplates a switch from a college degree at USC to one at Harvard (such a dilemma), Kane hides suspicious motives.
When a series of threatening letters bent on John's destruction begins to arrive, John is kept hidden away in Kane's apartment for his own protection. But when John defies his uncle by going outside, Kane shows a side of him not befitting the experienced doctor figure John sees him as.
Though the "who's-my-baby's-daddy" concept behind the story is a solid one, all the added miscellaneous details like the letters and Kane's insistent IV needling are unnecessary and just plain weird. But because the story is unfortunately slow in kick-starting, these additives become the only things that make the story worthwhile.
Kane's fast switch into bi-polar behavior doesn't help matters much and basically give away most of his scheme. To be a Harvard grad and hospital chief-of-staff, he's not too bright.
And I haven't even touched on the cringe-worthy parents of John, who, though are understandably protective, will get on the reader's nerves after a few phone calls. John's mom seems oblivious to the concept of her son talking back to her and becomes extremely offended when he does - and John's father (or is he?) seems completely oblivious to absolutely everything pertaining to his son.
And even John seems a little dense; you have this guy (Kane) who takes away his clothes, food, water and other life necessities so John can learn to depend on him and they can further their familial "bonding". And Kane climbs down his throat when he feels a bit self-conscious about walking around buck naked. Can you say freaky?
Overall, An Open Vein wasn't constructed well enough to be considered a page turner. The progression of the story was slow and tedious; the character development was strangely approached; and the basic concept behind the story was amateurishly made odd in attempt to construct a creepy thriller.
Warwick, close up this vein and try again.