Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Walker & Co. (a Bloomsbury imprint)
Release Date: January 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 272
Source of Book: ARC from NCTE Convention
Eleven minutes passed before Delaney Maxwell was pulled from the icy waters of a Maine lake by her best friend Decker Phillips. By then her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead. And yet she somehow defied medical precedent to come back seemingly fine-despite the scans that showed significant brain damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be all right, but she knows she's far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can't control or explain, Delaney finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?I should have heeded the advice of the note from the editor in the beginning of the advanced copy of this book - "Do you have some free time?...you are not going to be able to stop until you've finished it." Reading this book was a roller-coaster of emotions all in one day. That's because the way the tension was built and the suspense kept me turning pages until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore-and then picked it right back up again the next morning-finishing it in less than 24 hours. This book made me want to laugh, cry, scream, weep, cheer, yell, cringe, and, most of all, hope. Hope for Delaney to be all right in the end. Hope for Decker to admit to what he felt. Hope for her mom to figure out how to talk to her. Hope for Troy to be a good guy in the end. Hope for lives to be saved. It was a book that dealt with death, but left me with a feeling of hope.
Then Delaney meets Troy Varga, who recently emerged from a coma with similar abilities. At first she's reassured to find someone who understands the strangeness of her new existence, but Delaney soon discovers that Troy's motives aren't quite what she thought. Is their gift a miracle, a freak of nature-or something much more frightening?
For fans of best-sellers like Before I Fall and If I Stay, this is a fascinating and heart-rending story about love and friendship and the fine line between life and death.
This debut book is written in an approachable, straight-forward style, but in a really engaging way that drew me into the story even more. There is tension and suspense and truth and honesty and realness. There is also a main character who reaches in and grabs you. Delaney's struggles with how people see her after her traumatic brain injury gave me a sense (even if I hadn't read it in the author bio later) that the author had close knowledge of what someone who has dealt with that would be feeling and thinking. How does one go back to being normal when the brain no longer is? How does one go back to being normal after living when she should have died?
Delaney is a smart character, and I really liked that about her. There is something really refreshing about her voice and attitude that drew me to her. She's the type of character who isn't always completely reliable because she's so messed up from what happened to her, and she doesn't know what's going on with her own head, so she's freaked. She's also honest with herself, even if not always with those around her. How can she be honest though, when those around her can't even be honest with her? And how can she act how she was before, when she doesn't even recognize some of the things going on in her head? It wasn't only Delaney who was affected by the accident and her unexpected recovery, but all of those who know her and were involved. And then there's Decker. I held out hope for him throughout. Interestingly, the very last book I read also dealt with a teen girl figuring out that her lifelong friend, who is a boy, is actually in love with her. Both of them felt true to how they would react and work through these realizations.
My heart broke for Decker throughout this book, but still hoped he would get through to Delaney. But she's broken after the accident, and it takes many realizations about life and what's important for her to heal. "What would you do if you had one day left to live?" Don't wait, go do it because you never know when that last day will be. It's a hopeful message to go after what you want, do the right thing, and share your feelings with the right people. Delaney starts to come to this realization of what's most important in the last third of the book, after witnessing another death and figuring some things out about Troy. There were some deep thoughts and ways Delaney was trying to work out what's right and wrong when it comes to expected and unexpected death that made me think and feel deeply as I read them.
This book is full of suspense and emotion and heartache and fear and sadness and hope. However, it is a short book, and I think more development could have been done with many aspects of it and because I would have enjoyed getting more detail on some things and spending more time with these characters. There are quite a few smaller plotlines within the larger book, and some of them are not as fully realized as they could have been. It left me a little bit lost on some of them feeling like I wasn't getting the whole story. That being said, I do think because of the brevity of it, I will be able to get many of my students to read it, which is always a good thing. I definitely recommend reading this one on January 17th!