August 06, 2013

Controversy at the heart of disaster

By Debbie Levy
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All Danielle wanted was a quiet, peaceful summer, and her babysitting job provided her with just that. Five-year-old Humphrey was adorable, funny and better company than the friends from whom she seemed to be growing apart. And then came the accident, a split second during their walk home from the park: Humphrey ran into the road and was hit and killed by a passing car, and Danielle can’t help but feel responsible.

A devastating accident leaves a girl scrambling for answers.

Guilt and grief consume Danielle as she tries to remember the good times with Humphrey, the afternoons of make-believe and nights of Popsicles, but in the aftermath of the accident, her sleepy neighborhood buzzes with controversy. Some members of the community think a lack of streetlights caused the crash and lobby for improvement, while others are hung up on the fact that the driver of the car was an illegal immigrant. What no one wants to talk about, Danielle realizes, is the smart little boy who was lost that night.

When her parents put her in therapy to deal with the loss, Danielle begins to realize that she was having problems long before the accident, and if she wants to get past them and honor Humphrey's memory, she's going to have to speak her mind in the neighborhood’s debates.

Author Debbie Levy’s depiction of loss in Imperfect Spiral is powerful, and equally as compelling are her frequent flashbacks of Danielle and Humphrey’s time together. Levy has created an incredibly nuanced relationship between the two, showing that the most important relationships can form outside traditional boundaries like age groups and family ties. Within these memories she also explores Humphrey’s family and the complicated mix of a parent’s love and expectations.

The novel sometimes lags under the weight of all the issues it attempts to address. Danielle deals not only with her panic attacks and feelings of loss, but also her feelings on illegal immigration and the strain between her parents and brother, and the story becomes exhausting for both her and the reader. Likewise, the addition of a love interest feels squeezed in, and while the relationship’s development is genuine, it also feels rushed.

Despite its flaws, Imperfect Spiral is a powerful book that stays with you long after you’ve read the final page. It’s a story of love and loss that distinguishes itself from the flood of YA books tackling those topics by challenging how we define family and who you can count among your friends.

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Imperfect Spiral

Imperfect Spiral

By Debbie Levy
ISBN 9780802734419

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