A seemingly cursed teen tests her luck.
Sixteen-year-old Maguire has had it rough. Five years prior, she was the lone survivor of a car crash that claimed the lives of her father, brother, and uncle. A year later, the roller coaster carriage she was in careened off the track, critically injuring everyone else around her. Shortly after that, when the white teen found herself running toward her neighbor’s house as it was engulfed by flames, Stokes’ besieged protagonist wound up in therapy, where this bildungsroman opens and much of its introspective character development plays out, session by session. Viewing herself a “disaster magnet” rather than uncannily lucky, Maguire suffers so terribly from survivor’s guilt that she begins actively avoiding others, thinking “accidentally hurting yourself is way better than hurting other people.” As Maguire’s fears and compulsive coping mechanisms threaten to derail her adolescence, she meets an alluring, white classmate in her therapist’s waiting room—with a few issues of his own to work out—and the two team up to see if each can exorcise the other’s demons. Though the disasters in Stokes’s calamity-filled plotline occur with soap-operatic frequency, the progression of Maguire’s treatment unfolds convincingly as she attempts the various cognitive behavioral challenges her therapist sets before her.
Stokes’ engaging prose and sympathetic characters serve up great lessons in acceptance for teens dealing with trauma. (Fiction. 14-18)