Imperfect Spiral

Imperfect Spiral

4.6 5
by Debbie Levy
     
 

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Danielle Snyder's summer of babysitting turns into one of overwhelming guilt and sadness when Humphrey, her five-year-old charge is killed suddenly. Danielle gets caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented alien, a politically charged… See more details below

Overview

Danielle Snyder's summer of babysitting turns into one of overwhelming guilt and sadness when Humphrey, her five-year-old charge is killed suddenly. Danielle gets caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented alien, a politically charged immigration debate. Wanting only to mourn the sweet little boy she grew to love, Danielle tries to avoid the world around her, until a new and unexpected friendship with Justin, a boy she meets at the park, helps her find a way to preserve Humphrey's memory, stand up for what she believes in, and find her own path to forgiveness. Readers will be swept away by this heart-wrenching, but uplifting story.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Danielle Snyder—babysitter, fourteen—is in a state of shock, guilt, and depression. It is the day after she and five-year-old Humphrey started home from the park. Humphrey darted into a busy street after their football and was hit by a car—Humphrey is dead. Danielle is already burdened by other issues: family conflicts, loss of confidence when she froze and ruined her bat mitzvah, growing distance from her two best friends, Becca and Marissa. Her job as sitter for a bright, imaginative little boy is all she aspires to for the summer. Danielle's story is told in the first person, present tense, so a reader might expect getting to know Danielle pretty well. She remains, however, remote, repressed, and reluctant to talk for most of the novel. After the accident, when neighbors use Humphrey's death as a platform for adding sidewalks and streetlights, Danielle remains apart. Suddenly, the debate morphs into bitter controversy over illegal immigrants as irresponsible inhabitants. The novel's best part is a series of flashbacks interspersed with scenes from the present, as Danielle and precocious little Humphrey start to bond. Levy handles these dialogues with delicacy and humor, drawing in readers with the affection growing between the two. Teens will probably not be drawn to a five-page faux article in the Washington Post about blaming undocumented immigrants for accidents like Humphrey's. Conveniently, Marissa represents the viewpoint of legal immigrants, while the plight of young victims of the federal system is personified by Colombian-born Justin, Danielle's new friend and potential boyfriend. Though Levy can be commended for bringing to teens' attention the need for immigration reform, the issue seems forced as a catalyst to solve Danielle's problems—nor is Humphrey's pompous lawyer father convincing as a newly compassionate man who will rescue Justin in the end. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
09/01/2013
Gr 9 Up—Unwilling to work as a CIT for the summer before 10th grade, Danielle instead takes a babysitting job. Five-year-old Humphrey is a fantastic kid, and with him she can let go of the fears of being a leader that kept her from camp. The unlikely pair form a strong and genuine, if unconventional, friendship-something very different from the proximity-based friendships Danielle has with her peers. Everything comes to a sudden halt when Humphrey chases a football into the path of an oncoming car. His death weighs heavily on Danielle, who feels guilty for the accident and alone in her grief: How can she explain to anyone what the child meant to her? Meanwhile, the town is using the accident to push for safety improvements along the road and legislation against undocumented immigrants like the family in the car that struck the boy. Siblings, parents, and friends are all portrayed as real people struggling with their own issues, and Danielle finally begins to understand her complex relationships with the people around her. Contrasting her pain with the town's political agendas emphasizes that the rest of the world doesn't stop because her world did. The discussion of these real issues is deftly woven into the story, never overshadowing the protagonist's journey toward healing. A budding romance rounds out the plot. This book is sure to be a hit among teens seeking a substantive drama.—Brandy Danner, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA
Kirkus Reviews
The accidental death of a young child touches the lives of others in ways they never expected. When 5-year-old Humphrey dies while in the charge of his 15-year-old baby sitter, Danielle, she wants nothing more than to quietly mourn the loss. However, when the police discover that the driver of the car that struck Humphrey is an illegal alien, Danielle quickly realizes that there are those who would use the tragedy to forward their own agendas. City politics and an immigration debate soon dwarf Humphrey's death. Only Justin, a new friend, seems to understand her desire to honor the little boy's memory. But Justin bears a secret that threatens to change everything. Chapters highlighting Danielle's memories of her precocious charge are interspersed with those cataloging the events following his death. Levy's unflinching look at pain is masterful. The narrative fluidly moves from lighter moments with Humphrey to the darkness of grief, avoiding false sentimentality. Genuine characters, complicated relationships and realistic dialogue will ease readers through the difficult journey. Unfortunately, Danielle and Humphrey's story is overtaken by social commentary. The debate over immigration policies steals the stage, leaching the tale of its emotional impact. This poignant novel loses its way. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802734426
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
07/26/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
834,900
File size:
2 MB

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