For the last seven years, Cam Cooper has been fighting cancer. It hasn’t worked, and Cam knows she’s going to die. The last crazy thing her mother has planned in order to attempt to save her life is uproot the family to a place called Promise, Maine. Promise is rumored to be a place where miracles happen, and Cam’s mom and her sister Perry think it might just have a miracle for Cam. Even though Cam doesn’t believe in miracles, she goes, and is surprised by what she finds there: snow in July, purple dandelions, a flock of flamingoes…and a boy named Asher who seems interested in her. As Cam struggles to reconcile what she believes with what she sees, she also begins to understand how beautiful people can be.
Wendy Wunder’s debut novel is a stunner of a debut. Although it could easily fall into the cancer-book tropes that seem to populate much of the YA fiction about disease, Wunder gracefully sidesteps these pitfalls and maintains a graceful balance of humor and sadness. This is a book worth reading in every sense.
Cam is cynical, sarcastic, and matter-of-fact about what she believes and her chances of surviving. She can be a hard character to like at times, but it is testament to Wunder’s writing that readers end up not only caring about Cam’s fate–but end up rooting for her. With a narration voice that is clear and unfailingly authentic, this novel is at times very dryly funny while also being astute, clever, and very meaningful.
In order to help temper the harshness of Cam’s character, Wunder populates the book with a vivid supporting cast who are remarkably well drawn. This is especially clear in the case of Cam’s family–her mother, grandmother, and sister Perry are full of quirks and human intricacies that make their appearances on the page a delight to read. The townsfolk of Promise, Maine are also quirky, charming, and possess a realness that lends authenticity to a story that sometimes borders on the surreal. Even the beautiful Asher has his moments of being a mere mortal, and this is a welcome change from what many YA books offer these days.
Other elements help make this book memorable. The setting–both when Cam and her family live in Florida and when they uproot themselves to Maine–helps add dimension to the story and its characters. Promise takes on a life of its own, and Cam’s ability to change her viewpoint and accept life’s beauties as well as its penchant for unfairness is directly related to the magic of the setting. Gorgeous, Gentle Readers. Absolutely gorgeous.
Highly, highly recommended.
The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder. Razorbill: 2011. Library copy.