In Miller’s (Free to Fall, 2014, etc.) YA novel, a modern teenager comes to terms with her fear of the unknown.
Jessa Gray, a privileged 17-year old in Los Angeles, survives a traumatic car wreck on New Year’s Eve that leaves her face disfigured by scars. Her life is further overhauled when she’s transported to Boulder, Colorado, to live with her father as part of a new beginning to her life. It turns out that the accident only inflamed Jessa’s panic disorder and mounting anxiety following her parents’ divorce. However, once she meets an angst-y piano prodigy named Hannah Jamison and her free-spirited twin brother, Marshall, she begins to see the physical and emotional scars of all the other people around her. Jessa’s inner monologue successfully builds momentum and heightens the stakes of her deteriorating mental health, although at times, her agony seems somewhat overwrought. Her immediate chemistry with Marshall, though, has an addictive, electric quality that’s reminiscent of Augustus and Hazel’s in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (2012), and it leaves readers genuinely caring about what happens to them and their relationships with others. The second half of the book, however, harps too much on the themes of self-acceptance and chance in a way that feels unjustified and mildly cumbersome. This might have been mediated if readers were given more information about Jessa’s everyday life and health prior to the car accident so that they could have felt more invested in her quest for healing. The book’s pacing, however, has a snappy, roving quality that will keep readers committed to seeing the characters’ stories through.
An often potent story about confronting the future and featuring an engaging central relationship.