A young woman with a traumatic brain injury moves forward with the help of a diverse collection of friends in Imhoff’s (Painted Wings, 2015, etc.) latest novel.
Kim “Flicker” Frechette was only a teenager when a drunk driver smashed into her car and derailed her life. Now she’s in her early 20s and chafing at the confines of the group home that she shares with two other girls, Lori and Beth. She’s still slowly recovering from brain damage from the accident, and she processes information more slowly than most other people do. However, she resists when people put her in the same category as her developmentally disabled housemates: “I wasn’t born like this,” she thinks. “I used to be smart.” As she explores the thrills and trepidations of her increasing independence, she begins to understand that making adult decisions isn’t easy. Fortunately, she has a group of concerned friends to help her negotiate the transition: Katie Martin, who runs the local bookstore, and her partner, Annie Curtis (whose story is told in Imhoff’s previous novel); and short-order cook Jesse Davis, an ex-schoolteacher with his own traumatic past. Together, these mentors watch out for Flicker, particularly when her choices lead her into potential danger. Imhoff ties his protagonist’s somewhat delayed coming-of-age story to more serious issues of date rape, domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and the long-term effects of brain trauma, and the resulting narrative is both educational and suspenseful. Flicker is an engaging character as she gradually learns which people to trust and which to avoid and as she grows to appreciate the innocent kindness of Lori and Beth rather than distancing herself from them. That said, the narration sometimes feels like a didactic educational pamphlet about traumatic brain injury, and the characterizations are sometimes simplistic. For example, Flicker’s boyfriend is so one-dimensional that it’s hard to understand what draws her to him, and her friends seem almost too good to be true. Still, readers won’t be able to help cheering Flicker’s triumph over those who seek to take advantage of her.
A touching, absorbing story of a vulnerable person confronting obstacles on her journey toward pride and self-reliance.