Wunder gracefully balances comedy and tragedy in this debut novel about jaded 16-year-old Campbell, who is battling terminal cancer. After five years of treatment, her doctor tells her, “Science is not enough this time.... What you need is a miracle.” Though no-nonsense Campbell scorns the idea of miracles, her mother and younger sister refuse to give up, and her mother relocates them from their Disney-centric life in Florida to Promise, Maine—a hard-to-find town reputed to have mystical healing powers. As Cam fulfills her “Flamingo List” (her version of a bucket list), which includes such goals as “Have my heart broken by an asshole” and “Experiment with petty shoplifting,” she confronts unexpected joys and disappointments and abandons some of her defenses and detachment. Wunder creates a large, memorable supporting cast to bolster Cam, including her friend and fellow cancer patient, Lily; love interest Asher; and unconventional family. The surreal proceedings—along with some potential miracles, depending on one’s belief in such things—explore the subjects of death and life with sensitively honed humor, examining what it means to live. Ages 14–up. (Dec.)
VOYA - Marlyn Beebe
Sixteen-year-old Campbell (Cam) Cooper has had cancer for seven years. Her mother is constantly searching for the new treatment that will cure her, but even Cam is surprised when Alicia decides to move Cam and her sister, Perry, to Promise, Maine, for the summer. Promise is apparently known for the miracles that happen there and is mythically difficult to find. To get there, one has to go to a particular Dunkin' Donuts, where the road to town is only visible from the drive-through order box. Cam is skeptical, but her mother is insistent. Cam does not believe in Promise, but when she learns that they will be visiting Nana in Hoboken and her best friend from the hospital, Lily, in North Carolina, she stops arguing. This is a tough book to read. Cam appears to have resigned herself to her inevitable death from cancer but finds herself hoping she is wrong, though she cannot admit it even to herself. The desperation of Alicia to find a cure for her firstborn, the maturity of eleven-year-old Perry, and Cam's attempts to be "normal" all ring true. This relatively realistic book about a teenage girl with a fatal disease is not for the Lurlene McDaniel readers, but perhaps for those who might have a chronic illness or a friend who has one. Reviewer: Marlyn Beebe
Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
What does it feel like to receive a death sentence at the age of 17? Campbell Cooper has battled cancer for over five years. She has gone through chemotherapy, radiation, and the entire field of Western medicine. Yet she has never been in loveand she wonders if true love really exists. With hope dying, her family moves to Promise, Maine, dreaming of a miracle. But Cam fears her time is running out as she watches good friends dying from cancer. Nevertheless, Cam believes in miracles for her mother's sake. Promise is a special place where unexplained events happen. Cam discovers sunsets can last for hours, and that she is intensely attracted to a boy named Asher. And she cannot stop watching the beautiful flamingo that covers the horizon in shades of pink. Most exciting of all, Cam falls in love with the adorable Asher. Then Cam decides to complete a to-do list before she dies. As Cam completes her to-do list, she realizes the world is filled with love and miracles. Even though life is short, Cam decides to embrace night rainbows and endless sunsets. Young readers will enjoy this moving narrative, which celebrates the life of Campbell Cooper, a character who is authentic and inspiring at the same time. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—High school senior Cam needs a miracle. She has been battling cancer for seven years and learns during spring semester that there is nothing left to do—no treatment is going to help. Not willing to admit defeat, Cam's mother drags her and her sister to Promise, ME, for the summer. Miracles are supposedly regular occurrences in the town, according to her mother's friend from yoga. Cynical, sarcastic, matter-of-fact Cam is not excited about leaving Florida and Disney World where her family has been involved in the entertainment business, performing nightly Samoan-heritage dances. But she goes along to humor her mother, and on the way there visits her friend Lily, a cancer-patient comrade whom she's known for years. Miracles or not, Cam really is dying. Nonetheless, during the summer she works as a vet's assistant, steals a donkey, meets lovely Asher, and manages to accomplish everything on her Flamingo List of the things she wants to do before she dies, which include cow-tipping, losing her virginity, and having an awkward moment with her best friend's boyfriend, among other things. This is not your typical teenage fatal disease, let's-make-the-most-of-my-last-summer novel. Rather it is a witty, clever, meaningful, kind of kooky life-sometimes-stinks-but-it's-all-we-have tour de force.—Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY
Faced with death, one teen discovers life in this bittersweet debut. Despite growing up in Disney World with parents who performed in the "Spirit of Aloha" at the Polynesian Hotel, cynical and loner Campbell Cooper (an Italian-Samoan–American) gave up on magic after her parents divorced, her father died and she developed neuroblastoma (a cancer with low survival rates in adolescence). Having exhausted Western medicine, her single mother suggests spending the summer after Cam's graduation in Promise, Maine, a hidden town (with a secret entrance off of the Dunkin' Donuts at Exit 33) known to have mysterious healing powers. While Cam's mother and younger sister are awed by such anomalies as flamingos, snow in July and purple dandelions, the teen prepares for the inevitable by suppressing her wishes. But as she begins an unexpected relationship with Asher, whose family founded the town and thus feels obligated to stay so the magic won't leave with him, she realizes the true meaning of friendship, family, love, living in the moment--and yes, even miracles. Exploring both sides of Cam's heritage, the story unfolds through narration as beautiful as the sun's daily "everlasting gobstopper descent behind the lighthouse." Irreverent humor, quirky small-town charm and surprises along the way help readers brace themselves for the tearjerker ending. Fans of Gayle Forman's If I Stay (2009) and others will find hope and laughs amid tragedy. (Fiction. 12 & up)
Publishers Weekly - Audio
Seventeen-year-old Campbell Cooper is dying of cancer, although her family is unwilling to admit it. After Cam's high school graduation, her mother, Alicia, desperate for a miracle, moves Cam and her younger half-sister, Perry, from Orlando, Fla., to Promise, Maine, an en- chanted town replete with flamingos, blue dandelions, and endless sunsets. Emma Galvin's Cam is adorable but tough, and the narrator perfectly captures her dry, sarcastic wit. Galvin also uses a subtle accent for Cam—one that is a blend of the character's heritage: her father is Samoan, her mother from New Jersey. The rest of the major characters are unique and well rendered, from Cam's delicate, sickly friend, Lily, to her hunky love interest, Asher, and her Norwegian half-sister Perry. Additionally good are the voices lent to the many teens of Promise and Cam's spunky Nana from Hoboken—a voice Galvin absolutely nails. Unfortunately, many of the book's supporting cast sound too similar to Cam, and this takes away from the notable voice Galvin has created. Ages 14–up. A Razorbill hardcover. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"Funny and entertaining."
New York Times Book Review
"The story unfolds through narration as beautiful as 'the sun's everlasting gobstopper descent behind the lighthouse.'"
Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW
"A witty, clever, meaningful, kind of kooky life-sometimes-stinks-but-it's-all-we-have tour de force."
School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
"Wonderfully bittersweet, with just as much humor as sadness."
"A funny, quirky, and uplifting novel that will stay with the reader long after one is finished reading it."
Library Media Connection
"Some readers prefer a little whimsy and bittersweet philosophy to tear-jerking and the story of Cam's final summer will be just what they are looking for."
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This tale of romance, adventure, chasing dreams, and finding the power in home is a DO NOT MISS!"
"Hilarious, wry, heartbreaking, and profound all at the same time."
Sara Shepard, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars