Wendy Wunder’s debut YA novel tells the story of Cam. Her mum works in the Aloha show at Disneyworld, her Nana lives in Jersey and Cam is dying of cancer.
Compared to both Before I Die and Juno by the publishers, Penguin, a part of me was scared to start this book. If you love Junoesque dialogue, highly intelligent characters a la John Green then you’ll love this book in particular. If the idea of that turns you cold, then this book may be a harder sell.
When Cam’s mum hears about a mysterious town few people can find in Maine called Promise, where miracles happen and fish rain from the sky, she decides to move the family there in the hope it will heal Cam. Promise reminded me a little of the Latin American influenced magic-realist settings. One of my favourite moments in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is when yellow flowers rain from the sky, and I have to say there are slight influences of that style within Wendy Wunder’s novel.
The first quarter of the book is a road-trip. It’s funny, the tree in Hoboken comes to mind here, poignant when Cam argues with her best friend Lily and all honestly recalled by Cam. The comic description of the U-Haul truck is a particularly noteworthy moment.
Wunder evokes an idyllic, beautiful town in Promise with long sunsets, flamingos and every little detail! While in Promise, Cam starts to work on her Flamingo List (a less depressing name for a bucket list) which includes losing her virginity at a party, sleeping through Saturday, and getting fired from a Summer job. As you can see from the above sample, her list is acerbic and yet honest too. She seems to have no illusions or sense of grandeur; she doesn’t say about losing her virginity to someone she loves and with flowers and luxury sheets; she says about losing it at a party. This, along with some of Cam’ later behaviour, really made me gain sympathy and empathy for her.
Wunder juxtaposes Cam’s cynicism with her attempts to create miracles for her family. I loved this detail and while superficially it was humorous (the unicorn for example) it revealed a lot about Cam’s need and attempt to control her life.
Asher is the romantic interest in the novel and while seemingly perfect, is revealed to be damaged by his parents’ deaths and highly superstitious about leaving Promise. This is much to Cam’s frustration as she wants him to leave Promise and seize a life, not live in the same town forever and be unhappy.
Wunder throws in shocking tragedies to the plot that are simply heartbreaking. One seemed to come out of nowhere, as it would in real life, and absolutely broke my heart and stayed with me after I closed the book.
I can’t spoil this book for you and tell you if Cam gets her miracle; you’ll have to read it. It’s a simultaneously heart-warming and heart-wrenching read that is told through a narrator who seems to explode into life from the first page. Sophisticated, poignant and a treat for contemporary YA fans, this debut hasn’t attracted much hype, but deserves more.
The Probability of Miracles is published by Penguin/Razorbill UK and I received a free proof copy from the publishers for honest review.