Devastated by her father’s revelation of his diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), 17-year-old Tobin must cope with his swiftly declining physical and mental health.
Tobin lives with her father, Steve, a paramedic, in their hometown of Duluth, Minnesota. Her paternal family has deep roots, going back some 340 years to the original white European fur trappers who founded the city. Steve hires Ike Navarro, the son of his ambulance partner, as his personal care assistant. Ike was an Army medic in Afghanistan and is the great-grandson of Mexican immigrants. Together, Tobin and Ike take care of Steve, with Ike providing Tobin big brother–like support and helpful guidance about the medical trajectory of the disease. The first-person perspective, which includes some journal entries, reveals a loving daughter tormented by the rapid worsening of symptoms and her father’s unfathomable plan to end his life. Cronn-Mills (Original Fake, 2016, etc.) paints a clear picture of the anticipatory grief Tobin is experiencing as well as the difficulty of communicating with family and friends. One important exception is her understanding great-uncle Paul, who is gay; this detail is presented matter-of-factly. The city of Duluth is described well and provides a rooted-in-reality backdrop for the action. Lake Superior is an important presence, serving as a key part of the recurring—and effective—metaphor of Tobin’s frozen-with-grief heart.
A realistic take on ALS, caregiving, loss, and loyalty, with an appealing main character. (Fiction. 14-18)