Author: Debbie Levy (Twitter)
Publisher: Walker Children's
Publish Date: July 16, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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?
Danielle loved Humphrey like a little brother. He's fun, he's sweet and he never really gives her any trouble at all. But Danielle could never have guessed the tragedy that would unfold, cutting Humphrey's life short and, effectively, ending her innocence. Trapped in a web of grief and pain, Danielle doesn't see a way out until she meets a boy that might be able to make it clearer what exactly happened that day. But the memories hurt just as much as the accident, itself. Can she escape the pain and move on, or will Danielle remain trapped forever?
Issue books have always held a special place in my heart. I don't know if it's the realism that hits hard, or if it's the fact that I admire the author for grappling with some of the most basic, instinctual human emotions, but they usually just work for me. Imperfect Spiral tackles one of the toughest emotions of all - grief - in a realist, powerful and heart-wrenching manner. Author, Debbie Levy, takes her time with the story, spinning a melancholy tale that is accentuated with bursts of light, laughter and love, giving us hope for a sense of peace and resolution. With a deft, sweeping hand, Imperfect Spiral spins you into the throes of tragedy and helps you find your way to peace once again.
I think that I was most attracted to Imperfect Spiral because it tackles grief, which is an emotion I don't see portrayed well enough in most of the YA genre. Grieving is such a complex process, and it's different for every person, so I was intrigued to see how the author portrayed a teenage girl's take on it, as well as the measurement of self-imposed punishment. Danielle was a very true and honest character. On the surface, we see your average teenage girl with a part-time babysitting job, but underneath, we see this roiling, tumultuous girl that is absolutely devastated by the death of her charge. She blames herself so entirely for Humphrey's death that, for a while, the grief is like a blanket emotion that overshadows everything else, and she's almost a shell. Through the story though, we get to watch as the pieces of her shattered teenage life begin to come together once again, and she starts to find her way back to a level ground of peace. Imperfect Spiral also manages to tackle other topical agendas, as well, which I found interesting. We watch as the death of a child becomes a campaign for public safety, stricter rules on undocumented immigrants and the advancement of political agendas. These topics are carefully arranged within the story, so as not to overshadow the progression of Danielle's healing process. I found that the relationship between Justin and Danielle was, for the most part, really well done and realistic. I do sort of wish we'd had the opportunity to know a bit more about Justin so as to better understand his role in her healing. The only other little qualm I had with the story was that, at times, I felt like it was a bit too introspective. I felt a bit smothered by the emotions at time, and it was hard to separate myself from that.
Overall though, Imperfect Spiral was a really well done take on grief and the healing process, and I think it's an important read within the genre. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and issue books.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.