July 16, 2013

Review: Imperfect Spiral

This was a hard novel to read—and now to review.

Like Humphrey, I was hit by a car when I was five years old. While I was hospitalized and had a cast from my chest to my toes, I was lucky.

Humphrey was not, and reading about him and his relationship with Danielle, oh…my heart.

I loved this book. I am going to go ahead and say that this is one of my favorite reads of 2013. I think one of the reasons is the connection I feel to it, but I could not put this down (nor the towel I used to wipe my eyes while I read).

I think that for those of us who grew up babysitting, you too will feel all the feelings while reading this novel.

Go ahead, get the towel ready now.

I love this cover
Title: ‘Imperfect Spiral’
Author: Debbie Levy
Pages: 352
Publisher: Walker Children’s
Available: NOW at your local book store/library
Source: requested from Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Danielle Snyder's summer job as a babysitter takes a tragic turn when Humphrey, the five-year-old boy she's watching, runs in front of oncoming traffic to chase down his football. Immediately Danielle is caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented alien, outsiders use the accident to further a politically charged immigration debate. Wanting only to mourn Humphrey, the sweet kid she had a surprisingly strong friendship with, Danielle tries to avoid the world around her. Through a new relationship with Justin, a boy she meets at the park, she begins to work through her grief, but as details of the accident emerge, much is not as it seems. It's time for Danielle to face reality, but when the truth brings so much pain, can she find a way to do right by Humphrey's memory and forgive herself for his death?

My Thoughts:

This book made me feel all kinds of feelings.

As the novel opens, Humphrey has been lost to a terrible accident while walking home with his babysitter Danielle. And while this should have been a novel about how to deal and recover, it turned into something else toward the end.

While some may have a problem with that, I did not. Here’s why: when a tragedy happens, people are always looking beyond the tragedy itself for self gain (whether personally, professionally, politically, etc.). That is what happens in the novel. We shift from the loss of Humphrey to why we need stronger immigration laws.

I felt that this shift mirrored a truth in our society—and why we need to keep our eye on the true victim. In this case, it isn’t America with illegal immigrants; it is five-year-old Humphrey. He is getting lost in the accident, and Danielle works to make sure his not forgotten and overshadowed.

Oh Danielle, talk about a heart-breaker. This character absolutely melts my heart. She has a good head on her shoulders, but she feels lost. Humphrey is dead, on her watch, and she doesn’t know how to move forward. To mirror this, the author gives us flashbacks into their relationship, from the first day Danielle meets the quirky child until his last moments. Okay, where is my towel?!

Danielle wants forgiveness from Humphrey, from Humphrey’s parents, from herself. It is a hard loss for her, for obvious reasons. She is young, tackling babysitting for the first time in her life, and she has a close bond with her charge. There is nothing wrong with that. It just makes the story that much harder to read tear-free.

I loved the layout of the novel. I enjoyed getting to know Humphrey and seeing his relationship with Danielle grow. What an amazing little man—and what a tragic accident.

The development of Danielle’s character was a journey not just for her but for me as well. As the first words appear, it is clear she is grieving. The entire book is her journey through the process—especially since it seems that she is being lost in the shuffle. This loss did not just happen to Humphrey’s parents; it happened to Danielle too, on her watch. She saw it happen. She held his head. Humphrey’s parents could not even be reached on the phone.

I will say that Humphrey’s parents were a bit of a surprise, and they added to the heartache of the story. Without ruining plot points, let me say that their story just builds on the need for a towel, and not just for the loss of their sweet boy.

With a sprinkling of minor characters who are there to keep the plot moving (including a character that reminds me of Mrs. Kravitz from ‘Bewitched’) and to help Danielle come to turns with her grief, the author did a solid job with not only storytelling but also with the way she used her characters.

And while the plot shifts to the issue of illegal immigrants, the author handles it with care, but it is clear on where she stands on the issue. Make sure to read her author’s note about it when you finish the novel. Or before you start. I don’t think the note ruins any element of her storytelling.

While I loved this book as a whole, my favorite chapters were the final two. If you are reading and unsure of how you feel about the novel, hang on until the very end. Those final two chapters will wrap you in their arms with all kinds of feels. I promise.

I recommend this novel to readers of Meg Cabot, Elizabeth Eulberg, and Lindsey Leavitt. The novel has the same “feel” as these writers but with a bit more tragedy.

What realistic fiction novel have you read lately that really struck a chord in your heart?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

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