July 20, 2014

Elixir by Ted Galdi: Review and Author Interview

Hey everybody! Cassia here! On Goodreads, through The YA Book Club, Ted Galdi offered to send a free copy of his debut novel to anyone who would write an honest review in return. So of course I offered to review it. Once again, thank you Mr. Galdi! Here's my review, and he has kindly offered to do an author interview, so that's after the review. Enjoy!

by Ted Galdi
Released on July 31, 2014
259 pages
Young Adult, Thriller, Action

Sean Malone is a genius. At age 11, he was the champion of Jeopardy!, winning over one million dollars. At 14, he comes up with a dangerous formula and becomes tangled in a deadly plot with the NSA. Unable to do anything else, he flees the country. Years later, he falls in love. But his girlfriend contracts one of the world’s worst diseases. Sean believes he can cure her, but to do that would mean to return to the demons of his past. Elixir follows Sean as he fights against the world in an effort to save the life of the girl he loves.

This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you again, Mr. Galdi!

I really liked this book. I really enjoyed the plot, and Galdi’s writing backed up the twists brilliantly. As many of you know, it’s refreshing for me when I read books like this: books that don’t leave me tongue-tied from wild emotions. Not that it wasn’t good; it was very good. I also liked the feel of it. To use a literary term, the tone. It was very suspenseful, even when nothing was really happening. You could just tell that something big was going to happen. (Oh, and you guys know how much I love books that have short, clever titles. I got to the end and I was like, “Lightbulb!” I love those moments! Especially when it’s with the title. I thoroughly enjoyed that. :))

I was also fond of Galdi’s writing style. Like I said, it kept me turning pages, but I also liked how he used the POV of third person omniscient. At the moments when I was on the edge of my seat, the chapter ended, and it switched to someone I didn’t know. Which was infuriating, but I liked it. However, it felt...distant. While I could feel Sean’s emotions as I read, it was harder to identify with minor characters.

Speaking of characters--I really liked Sean. I was able to empathize with him, even if it wasn’t the same exact situation. However, I felt sorry for him, too. There were so many times when I wanted to march onto the pages, grab his arm, drag him to the side, and explain everything to him, comfort him in his depression. He is very emotional, and confused, even though he knows so much. In fact, that’s why he’s so confused. I loved watching his character develop! Again, I found it hard to get to know the other characters, but I did like them. The only one I was a little iffy about was Kyle, Sean’s best friend. But he turned out okay. I loved his aunt and uncle! It’s hard to explain, but I really liked them.

Galdi exhibits some great themes. Ones that are personal, ones that spoke to me, and that’s part of why I enjoyed it so much. The big one: love. Materials and one-night stands might bring someone (in this case, Sean) pleasure that resembles happiness, but only love can bring true happiness. This wasn’t in the book, but the theme meant to me that only God’s love can bring true happiness. That may not be what the author intended, but that’s what the book meant to me. And that’s the beauty of books. ;)

Galdi explores the intellect of a young man who struggles with depression and guilt, and shows the power of love in the most unimaginable of situations.
Four stars!

Author Interview

Where did you get the idea for Elixir?

At first I thought it would be a cool idea to write something about a smart kid who gets tossed into crazy situations because of his intelligence.  I didn’t have enough substance to write a whole book just off that though.  After thinking about it for a while, I felt a book could work if it wasn’t only a pure-suspense piece based on that premise, but a coming-of-age story too.  At the heart of Elixir’s coming-of-age concept is of course the love aspect; the plot and rest of the characters really started coming together once I decided to put in Natasha, Sean’s girlfriend – she gave him something to fight for.

My biggest inspiration for writing the relationship between Sean and Natasha – including of course his reaction to her getting sick – was my favorite song: “Plainsong” by The Cure.  The climax chapter of the book, “The Edge of the World,” is named after a lyric in the song.  I also pay tribute to The Cure elsewhere in the story too: they’re Natasha’s favorite band, and three other chapter names are inspired by their lyrics as well. 

Based on the ending, I know there probably won't be a sequel, but I have to ask: will there be a sequel?

A bunch of people have asked me about a sequel, and I’m considering it.  Like you mentioned, the ending of Elixir does have closure – it was in no way written as a “to be continued” sort of book.  So, if there ever was a sequel, it would of course feature many of the same characters in Elixir, but in completely different circumstances.  And yes, I did start thinking about what some of those circumstances might be… 

I would love to know what happened in those four years in Rome. Are you planning on writing any short stories?

I didn’t plan on it, but that could be a cool idea!  We obviously know in those four years he slips out of his “boy genius” skin.  It’s safe to assume he didn’t do anything academic.  Most certainly he enjoyed being anonymous for the first time in his life.  He definitely liked acting and being treated like a normal teenager for once.  However, when we do see him again after the time gap, we realize that although he may seem very different on the outside, he’s still lost emotionally, fighting the same issues he’s been since his parents died.  If we followed him through that stretch of time, we’d see him doing everything he could to change himself from the outside in, but not making any progress with the real problem.

Do you have anything in common with Sean or any of your characters?

I’m of course not anywhere near as intelligent as Sean, but, I would say I have some other traits of his.  Like him, I tend to be mostly easygoing, however, I do have a bit of a rebellious streak, as we see Sean exhibit a handful of times in the story.

Did any other authors influence you or inspire you?

My favorite author is John Updike, which is probably funny because his books are nothing like Elixir.  However, I think he’s an incredible writer.

Sean could have done many things in Rome to express his depression and struggle for happiness. Why did you pick graffiti?

Graffiti art itself is an expression of rebellion, often against the negative aspects of government or big business.  If you look at the work of some of the top graffiti artists – Banksy for instance – you’ll see those themes over and over.  By venturing into that world, Sean was – even if subconsciously – expressing his rage for the corrupt political machine that put him into the terrible predicament back in the US.

What books do you like to read? What did you read growing up?

I read all sorts of genres.  I like books that do deep dives into the minds of strong characters; these of course can come from a variety of genres.  My favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye, which is probably the most-famous look inside a protagonist’s head.  As mentioned, I’m a big John Updike fan; his most-famous protagonist, Rabbit, gets analyzed in four books spanning a whole generation.  I also really enjoy Kurt Vonnegut and Cormac McCarthy.  I recently read A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and liked that a lot too. 

Growing up, I obviously read the books they made me read in school, which sometimes was a nightmare, and other times was enjoyable.  My favorite book when I was a teenager was Heavier Than Heaven, the biography of Kurt Cobain….which was not a school book : )

Did anyone influence your character Natasha?

She isn’t based entirely on one real person, however, like the other characters, there are elements of her that were inspired by people I’ve come across in my life.  When writing Natasha, the main thing I thought about was a great painting by Roy Lichtenstein called Girl With Hair Ribbon.  The girl in it not only looks like Natasha, but she has this very subtle look of worry on her face, as if she needs to be saved from something…which is what Elixir is really all about – Sean saving Natasha, and himself at the same time.

I love the complexity of Sean. Did anything else happen in his life that caused him to have trouble with irrational guilt?

The main catalyst of the irrational guilt is the death of his parents while they were on their way to visit a “gifted” school for him.  The part where Sean accidentally runs over a bird and panics is of course an extension of this characteristic.  When his aunt, Mary, sees him burying the bird, the book mentions that she “gets it,” which indicates that she has seen him exhibit other behavior like that in the past, even if it wasn’t written into the action of the story.

I could definitely see your book as a movie. Do you think it could be?

I would be 100% open to that.  Since the book isn’t even technically out yet, it’s obviously a little early for me to be thinking about a potential movie, however, I’m a major film fan, and I’d love it if Elixir played on the big screen one day.

Do you have another book in the works?

I’ve been really busy getting ready for the launch of Elixir, so I haven’t sat down and actually started writing another one yet.  However, I’ve been thinking about a handful of ideas.  Once Elixir is officially out, and I have time to focus, I’ll be ready for another…

Elixir will be available for purchase as an ebook on August 5th, 2014. For more information about the book, the playlist, and other reviews and interviews, visit http://www.elixirthebook.com/. Thanks for reading!
Goodbye for now,


  1. I'm glad you liked it. I personally couldn't stand it, but it's nice to see a positive review on it. I really hope the book does well; it just wasn't my thing.

  2. Honestly, I wasn't sure about it at first, either. I had hoped it would be good, and I really enjoyed it. I know what you mean; I just don't like some books, either. I really think this book will do well, though, and I hope it does. Thanks for reading!