Everything changed for Wren when her boyfriend was killed in an automobile accident that she survived.
Readers meet Wren in the fall; she should be at Amherst, but after a period of elective mutism following the accident, she decided to take refuge with her artist father at his home in Downeast Maine. There she meets Cal, also on the lam from life; he has multiple sclerosis and has temporarily dropped out of his architecture program at Cornell. Her father, anxious to give her something to do, sets her up with a “job” helping Cal that turns into romance. Refreshingly, Cal is not the agent of her healing; equally wounded, he needs her help as well. McNamara makes the most of the stark setting, taking readers and Wren on long runs through woods and along the coastal rocks. Wren’s first-person, present-tense narration is convincingly self-hating and claustrophobic; her emotional journey lurches through her numbness and denial toward self-acceptance. While the debut author has total command over Wren’s agonizing present, she has a harder time with her back story, in particular with an inconsistency in her relationship with her parents that does not seem entirely justified by her psychic myopia. An overreliance on simile grows tiresome, though many succeed beautifully: Wren’s father’s cheery intern is “like an ice cream sundae in work clothes.”
Despite minor flaws, Wren’s quiet emergence from despair rings true. (Fiction. 14 & up)