Book Review | The Probability of Miracles | Wendy Wunder

Book Review | The Probability of Miracles | Wendy WunderThe Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder
Published by Razorbill on December 8, 2011
Genres: Contemporary YA, Illness
Pages: 360
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought it
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five-stars

Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine – a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it’s undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe – in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

THIS BOOK. Oh my goodness. THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES filled my heart all the way to the tippy-top with hope and love and AWESOME, so much so that it eventually cracked and broke and DIED because it couldn’t hold any more. This book…I’m having a hard time thinking of the exact right words, except to say that it really touched me and made me THINK about ALL-CAPS kind of things: life, the pricelessness of what’s really important, all the moments I don’t pay enough attention to, and believing in things that can’t be explained with science or medicine. This one is WAY DEEP (AH! THE DEEPNESS!), you guys, and you should not miss it. Really. It’s beautiful and touching and funny and bright and it will stay with you for a long time.  

The reason that THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES will be permanently burrowed in your brain is because of one thing: CAM COOPER. Sometimes in life we meet people who just brand themselves onto our hearts and minds. Cam Cooper is this kind of person. Oh, Campbell Soup. You twisted my heart into knots and then made it explode. ILU. You made me laugh from the very, VERY beginning and I can’t help but admire and respect and WISH to have your strength, humor, spunk, and grace in the face of your own mortality. *sob* I got to page 4–FOUR–and was already crossing all of my appendages that she wouldn’t die because I insta-loved her. The irony, of course, is that she seems so vibrant and full of life and piss and vinegar when, in fact, she is very near death from the book’s first pages. All of her cancer treatments–the typical and the bizarre–have failed, and her mother has resorted to the road-trip/vacation-as-miracle-cure method and decides to take Cam to this crazy, mystical town in Maine on the advice of this pothead hippie/shaman/New Age priest because THINGS HAPPEN in this town–called Promise–and it’s Cam’s last chance to live to see her 18th birthday. So Mom, Cam, and her little sister Perry pack up from their Orlando home and hit the road.

I noticed early on that the name of this town wasn’t Miracle, so it was with very hopeful trepidation that I wondered on the meaning of the town being called Promise instead. So what kinds of promises does Promise, Maine, make and keep? I’m not sure I could describe them, except to tell you that this is one of those great fictional places that has personality, atmosphere, and is as much a character in this book as the people who inhabit it. And I believed in it. I believed that it was a quirky, small secret of a town where purple flowers bloomed and flamingos came to roost, and it snowed in July, and it was protected by the ghost of a widowed witch, and that sometimes sick people there can get better. I believed that special things happened in Promise, and I would have believed anything else that Wendy Wunder told me was true, even if the logical part of my brain told me that it should be impossible. Reading about Promise was…slow and peaceful. Wonderfully strange, but peaceful. Maybe that was the promise it made to Cam. Because if there was one thing that permeated my entire reading of this book, it was peace. Even under all the FEELINGS, I knew it was there.

Even Promise, though, pales in comparison to the AWESOME LIGHT of Cam Cooper. You guys? CAM COOPER DESERVES ALL THE CAPS. I have to keep bringing her up because I don’t know how to put into words how much she blew me away. Seriously. THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES could have been a depressing book about a young girl dying of cancer. And in a lot of ways, of course, it was. BUT. Cam was not depressing. Her situation made me sad, but she INSPIRED me. She was cynical, snarky, and in many ways, ready to die. But she often hoped and marveled at how her little family would get on without her, and when her mom and sister drank the Promise Kool-Aid without question, she tried to solidify their belief in miracles even though she was too analytical to believe it herself. For their sake. Cam was a bittersweet kind of girl, and being able to watch her slowly and unintentionally complete all the items on her Flamingo List was amazing. She has no unfinished business. And by the time the end of the book rolls around, Cam herself has transformed from this very clinical, nonbeliever-type who, as a long-time cancer patient had programmed herself to put her hope in nothing, into someone who was coming to understand that HOPE IS FOR WINNERS.

Her relationship with Asher seemed to happen fast, but you know what? Time was at a premium for Cam, and I can’t really bring myself to be even remotely cynical about such a beautiful story, especially since the two of them together was one of my favorite things about Cam’s story. Asher was a little mysterious and warm and friendly and wonderful, and he melted me completely. Together, they were something special, and their relationship was deep, tingly and lovely. I wish VERY MUCH that they could have…well…finishing that sentence is a spoiler, which I’m actively trying to avoid. But I WISHED so many things for Cam and Asher, and I loved them. (HOLY CRAP. I just welled up. THIS BOOK IS KILLER.) I loved ALL the characters in this book. Cam’s mom, who was fierce and loving (and from Jersey! *fist pump*); her grandmother, who was such a live wire; her sister, Perry, who was one of those sweet, annoying, innocent tweenies who is capable of so much more than people give her credit for. *Sigh*

THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES was such a gorgeous, bittersweet story that took something devastating–a young person dying too soon–and made it both sweet and fun as well as sad and touching. I finished it yesterday, and it’s been pretty much the only thing on my mind since. I know that I’ll be reading this one again, if only to say hi to Cam, and that I think I just found of my favorite books of the year. ALREADY.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Survival Kit, by Donna Freitas (October 11, 2011 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux). I meant to read this book awhile ago, but never got around to it. My library came through for me again, though, so here it is. This book sounds heartbreaking and emotional and life-affirming, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been SLAYED by cancer books lately, though, so I need to mentally and emotionally prepare myself. (I’m looking at you through my tears, The Probability of Miracles.) […]

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  3. […] of Rose’s mom, we’re not reading about the actual act of dying (as AWESOMELY done in THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES), but rather the lives that must continue with heavy hearts and under a cloud of sadness. Grieving […]

  4. […] get me some of that…Get a second opinion: Good Books and Good Wine (Audio) Hobbitsies Tripping Over Books Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Review, Young […]

  5. […] Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder. Friends, this book just killed me. Really heartbreaking tears. Cam Cooper is one of those characters who has so much personality and […]

  6. […] a reason that I found heartbreaking and real. Cam coping with her cancer and her own mortality was devastating and gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see what Wendy Wunder has in store next. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike […]

  7. […] The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder. See what I did there, with the science fiction fake-out? Because looky here. More dying. I don’t know what it is, guys. I guess there’s something about characters facing death that tells a story about making the most of things and learning not to take things for granted that really strikes a chord with me. THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES really does tell exactly that kind of story, about making things count and finding small pleasures in everyday things. I loved Cam Cooper’s spirit.  […]

  8. […] obviously, 2012 was the Year of Books That Made Amy Sob. Because THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES was exactly that kind of book. It was sad and heart-wrenching, but Cam Cooper is a very special […]

  9. […] I first read Wendy Wunder’s debut, THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES, it kind of killed me. It was sad and lovely and lively and funny. It was one of my favorite books […]

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