Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy Review

Monday, July 8, 2013

Title: Imperfect Spiral
Author: Debbie Levy (Twitter)
Publisher: Walker Children's
Publish Date: July 16, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

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.

31 comments:

  1. I agree that grief is something that hasn't been tackled that often. Sure lots of books deal with recent orphans or stuff like that, but their grief is like a sideshow for the real plot. I do think one of my favorite books where grief is really prominent is Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere. You've read that haven't you?

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    1. I actually haven't read THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. Back when it was super hyped, I put it on the backburner, and I never got back to it. I guess I should finally give it a go!

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  2. Grief and recollecting yourself after huge issues is something I'm looking for lately, def. adding this to the TBR, sounds magnificent.

    Beautiful review, Melissa! <33

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    1. Thanks, Melanie! I think you'd really like it. It tackles the issue really well.

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  3. I'd never even thought about it until this review but you're right - you don't see grief being tacked by YA authors all that often, and if you do, it's quite often just a small strand of a story. This book sounds really fascinating - it's many people's worst nightmare and I'd love to read a teenage girl's take on it. Really great and thoughtful review Melissa!

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    1. Thanks, Hannah! I think grief is one of those emotions that's often times a bit too daunting...this, however, embraces the challenge head-on!

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  4. I haven't heard of this before, Melissa- you always introduce me to the loveliest books! This one sounds like a particularly good read, too.

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

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    1. Thank you, Ellie! I've been looking to read some of the lesser-reviewed books this year, and there are some great gems out there :)

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  5. This one sounds great ... I know that younger readers and young adults have a difficult time with the concept of grief, and when something happens (to a friend or family member), they have no idea how to cope. Thanks for the review.

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    1. Thank you, Julie! I think this is a great (and very important book) for YA and younger teens to read. It's very well done.

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  6. Hi Melissa,

    I'm looking for a new contemporary read, this might it. Thanks for the review and for putting this on my radar.

    -Dannielle

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    1. I hope you enjoy it, Dannielle! I look forward to reading your thoughts on it, too :)

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  7. Awesome review. The story sounds interesting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention :)

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    1. Thanks, Shane! I hope you give it a go. I really enjoyed it :)

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  8. OMGosh! This poor girl! Can you imagine having a kid you're responsible for getting killed? No wonder she blames herself, even though it really wasn't her fault. Grief is definitely a hard thing to write about and it's not something we see enough of in YA (granted, it's not my favorite thing to read but it's good to have that option out there, since a lot of teens have to deal with it).

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    1. It's a really heart-wrenching idea, and it's definitely interesting to see how the author wove multiple ideas into this story. It's pretty well done, Mary!

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  9. Melissa, I haven't heard of this book before, but just reading that blurb has me tearing up. It sounds like such a powerful book and from your review, it seems like the author has done a beautiful job at depicting this grief. I haven't read a good issue book in some time now, but I'll keep this one in mind, so I can get a copy.
    Lovely review, Melissa.

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    1. I hope you do read it, Nick. It's definitely powerful, and I don't think that grief is tackled enough in YA!

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  10. I adore my gritty reads like you do Melissa, especially when they're done really well. And it sounds like the author has done an amazing job with Imperfect Spiral to make it come across as a really realistic story. I have had some really tough reads as of late, so I will definitely give this book a try, but not right now. Thank you once again for putting another great book on my radar! :)

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    1. I always know I can count on you for gritty reads, Jasprit! It's a good book, but you definitely need to be in the right frame of mind.

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  11. Oh man, the hairs on my arms stood up just reading the premise of this one Melissa! Something happening to one of the children I used to babysit while they were in my care was always my biggest fear, I would obsessively check on them after they went to sleep to make sure they were still breathing. I can't even imagine how Danielle would feel losing Humphrey! I think I'll have to be in the right mood for something as heavy as this, but it sounds like a really well executed story, and you of course wrote a beautiful review for it!

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    1. It's definitely a heavy book, but it's balanced neatly with just enough lightheartedness to keep you sane. It's not ALL despair, thank goodness!

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  12. I can't remember the last YA book I read that tackled grief, so this one has my curiosity. Glad that there are some lighter moments within the story - sometimes it's nice to have a little balance with issue books.

    Great review!

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    1. It definitely has a great balance, Lea, or I think I might have struggled with it. Even I can't handle TOO much dark haha

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  13. I have to agree with you about the portrayal of grief... it's so hard to get right because it's different for everyone and it can make people quite irrational, cause them to do things that seem ridiculous from the outside. I think the most realistic portrayal of grief (or one of, anyway) was done by Jandy Nelson in The Sky is Everywhere. But I digress...

    I've never seen this before, but it sounds lovely and I'll definitely be on the lookout for it.
    Stunning review, Melissa!

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    1. Thank you so much, Maja! I've heard from a few bloggers that I need to read THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE now, so I guess I need to take the hint and actually do it. Thanks for mentioning it, doll!

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  14. You are right. We all grieve differently. It's also such a part of our lives. I usually stay away from books like this just because I know I would get too wrapped up in it. At the same time I end up really enjoying these books too. It's a quandary. :) I haven't heard of this one and I do think I may need to try it.

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  15. You are right, we don't see enough books that really go through the stages of grief. I can only imagine the pain of losing a child. I agree issue books are always something I am drawn too but I can only read a few at a time. Thanks for the recommendation, Melissa!

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  16. This sounds really good. I might have to splurge and buy it.

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  17. I've had my eye on this one for a while and have been anxious to see your thoughts since I first saw that you were reading it. I love grief books (morbid thought, no?) and I think it always interesting when an author tries to tackle the subject. Like, why is the author doing so? And is it an authentic voice - does it FEEL real, ya know? This is a great review and one that I'll put on my radar.

    I read a book called Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara. It's a wonderful debut, just beautiful and brilliantly written, about a young girl going through a grief of her own - she meets a young man that is also going through a grief but his is a different type. She of course has shut herself down and out of life, out of guilt, and he is coping in his own way. The two form this unsteady relationship (don't form a conclusion if you haven't read it!) that turns into a friendship that ends up being fruitful for them both. The thing is, Melissa, that this book is so well-written, sparse in the language but so powerful and the author wrote it out of her own grief for a loss that she suffered. So I recommend that book to you since you enjoy issues and the topic on the table today seems to be grief. Sorry to make a little mini-review in your comments section, particularly if you've read the book already. But more people need to read THAT book and *I* need to absolutely read Imperfect Spiral. Thanks gal, great review as always.

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  18. I don't read a lot of issue book, especially ones that are focused on grief or guilt of someone's death. I don't think I can handle all the emotions, but what I love about Imperfect Spiral is that it talks about how-to-prevent-it issue because that's what I'm always looking forward to after a tragedy. Bad things happens, but how are you going to prevent it next time. And I like that the author included that part. Wonderful review, Melissa.

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