A grieving hospital intern and an ambitious young nurse’s aide bond over their shared friendship with a dying teen patient.
After barely passing most of her first-year pre-med classes at Yale, Vivi Flannigan must successfully complete a summer internship in a Central Florida hospital’s heart ICU. TJ Carvalho works as a nurse’s aide on his way to becoming an RN. When their paths cross, Brazilian-American TJ (who’s dark-skinned and multiracial) recognizes white Vivi as the “pretty-faced hot mess” who got drunkenly out of control at his family’s churrascaria the previous Thanksgiving break. Vivi, meanwhile, would rather forget that “terrible night,” because her beloved father died soon after. TJ and Vivi attempt to avoid each other, but observant Ángel Solis, the 18-year-old heart-infection patient who doesn’t respond to English or Spanish (he’s indigenous Guatemalan), senses their attraction and brings them together. Told in alternating points of view among the three characters, the poignant story shows how young adults can connect deeply despite differences in privilege, race, and citizenship status. Each of Vivi’s chapters begins with excerpts and sketches from her bird journal—with the birds (and their calls) acting as a chorus to her story arc. Vivi and TJ’s slow-burn romance is electric, and Ángel’s humorous and heartbreaking perspective elevates him far above the stereotype of problematic sick characters without agency.
Marquardt once again writes a touching and authentic exploration of immigration, love, and loss. (Fiction. 14-17)