Lenny’s compulsive behaviors intensify as her father’s cancer prognosis declines.
A planetarium exhibit seen when she was 9 triggered Lenny’s obsession with catastrophic events that could end the world. She details them in a secret notebook, the pages of which begin each chapter of the novel. But instead of nanotechnology or sun storms, her father’s diagnosis is the event destroying her world. Lenny’s a problem-solver, though (as evidenced by her secret survival bunker underneath their house), and so she latches on to Dr. Ganesh’s suggestions about potential experimental drug trials. (Indian-American Dr. Ganesh, called "Dr. Hottie" by Lenny's sister, lends some diversity to the otherwise largely white cast.) Lenny also initiates increasingly inappropriate romantic overtures toward Dr. Ganesh, heedless of their 20-year age difference. Soon not even Lenny’s clever and wryly funny observations can hide the fact that she’s teetering on the edge of disaster, especially when she begins finding comfort in self-harming behaviors, compellingly portrayed. Unfortunately, the examination of Lenny’s emotional crisis and harmful coping mechanisms is often interrupted by subplots involving Lenny’s high school drama production and a local diner’s renovation. In fact, wrapping up the multiple storylines eventually necessitates some abrupt changes in Lenny. And while accepting her father’s impending death sparks a welcome return of her equilibrium, its suddenness may surprise many readers.
The novel’s pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lenny’s grief feels palpable and honest. (Fiction. 12-18)