by Wendy Wunder
Cam has cancer. And treatment isn’t going well – but she’s proud of how realistic and forward she is about her diagnosis. Her mom, though, has a broader outlook on what can heal a person. And when she hears of a small town in Maine where miracles are a guarantee, the Florida family is suddenly uprooted to go catch a miracle.
Cam thinks it ridiculous – but Promise, Maine has a few tricks up its sleeve that just might have Cam believing in the impossible.
This is one of the many Cybils-nominated books that dealt with morality in some way, shape or form. When I first picked up Probability of Miracles my initial reaction was “Greeeeeeeeat. Another dying teen. Just what I need for this dreary day.” (December in AK is almost always dreary. Twoish hours of sunlight will do that.)
But I was so happy to find it was so much more! Instead of being a “cancer” book, I was thinking of it as a “hope” book. There’s actually not a lot about cancer in it – we aren’t in a hospital and Cam doesn’t show too many symptoms.
Cam is actually so honest and upfront about what’s happening to her, you want to shake her silly sometimes. She constantly wants to disengage and distance herself. But Promise, Maine is a special place. And, for lack of a better word, magical things seem to happen there and it’s a lovely thing to see Cam adjust her worldview as these things happen. (There were some points where the “fantastical” world of Promise reminded me a bit of Sarah Addison Allen’s worldbuilding.)
I also liked and appreciated Cam’s family history with Disney World – which, I think, made her inability to believe in miracles even more understandable. There’s also a lovely scene where Cam sets up situations so it looks like miracles are happening for her family. It completely ends up backfiring but it really showed Cam DOES care – even if she’s not great at expressing it.
The rest of the family is really well developed and keeps the optimism going when Cam gets down on life. (This is always pretty evident when you want to know what happened to them after the story ends, I think. And I want to know! Did they move back to Florida or stay in Maine?) Asher – the boy Cam meets in Promise – was a bit one-note for me, but I understand what kind of person Wunder was looking for Asher to be.
Promise, the town, was very whimsical. I actually would have liked a bit more focus on it and the whimsy – but that might have been problematic, like revealing the man behind the curtain, so… – just because so much of the story hinged on Promise’s miracle-producing ability.
I did have this thought during Cybils reading, though: (there were a handful of cancer books in the nominees) how hard books about teens with cancer are trying to not be stereotypical books about teens with cancer. Which led to protags that, actually, had a lot of similarities. None of them wanted pity for their illness, for the most part they all were forward about what was happening to them, and they all had some major coping mechanisms to keep emotions and people at bay (usually this was through sarcasm). No real observations, just a thought about a lot of the similarities as they try to avoid the “common” thing.
Either way, though, for a book that made me cry, I found Probability of Miracles quite delightful and whimsical. You should check it out. If you want.