Primary Genre(s): Middle Grade, Fiction
Originally Published: 16 May 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Page count: 352
My Format: Audiobook via Overdrive
Cover: Simple, but great
Would I recommend it: Yes
Commission Link: https://amzn.to/2WGYN6U
My rating: ★★★★☆
Synopsis from Goodreads
Riding the Cyclone, the world famous Coney Island roller coaster, was supposed to be the highlight of Nora’s summer. But right after they disembark, Nora’s cousin Riley falls to the ground…and doesn’t get up. Nora had begged and dragged Riley onto the ride, and no matter what the doctors say, that she had a heart condition, that it could have happened at any time, Nora knows it was her fault. Then, as Riley comes out of her coma, she’s not really Riley at all. The cousin who used to be loud and funny and unafraid now can’t talk, let alone go to the bathroom by herself. No, she’s only 10% Riley. Nora, guilt eating her up on the inside worse than a Coney Island hotdog, thinks she knows how to help. How to get 100% Riley back. But what Nora doesn’t realize is that the guilt will only get worse as that percentage rises.
I love middle grade books and this one is a great example of why these books are so good. Here are my pros and cons:
- Absolutely fantastic characters. Nora, Riley, Jack, the adults, the doctors and nurses… all of them were strong, emotional, and incredible characters.
- Nora’s guilt was palpable and felt so real. I could totally understand how Nora would feel like what happened to Riley was her fault… anyone would probably feel that way.
- Nora’s emotions when visiting Riley in the hospital for the first time felt very genuine and age-appropriate. Her guilt, her fear, her panic… it was real. As a reader you experience those feelings right along with Nora. Very well-written.
- The family dynamic also felt very honest. Even the strongest, most functional families experience great stress when dealing with an unexpected catastrophic event. This book deftly demonstrated all of those family tensions and flaws without making it uncomfortable. The story also emphasized the importance of communication and honesty between those affected by tragedy, particularly family.
- I enjoyed witnessing Nora’s evolution in the story. I liked how she became more and more comfortable with Riley and actually thought of ways to help her instead of clinging to her fear of the whole situation.
- The innocent relationship between Jack and Nora was tender and sweet. Jack is a fantastic side character.
- This book did a great job of introducing middle grade readers to some medical terms. I appreciate a great middle grade book, but it is an added bonus when you learn something, too!
- The book is filled with great lessons about dealing with a traumatic event, managing guilt, handling secrets, forgiving yourself, dealing with family, understanding confusing circumstances, making good decisions, and honesty.
- The audiobook, read by Candace Thaxton, was fantastic.
- The story got a tad slow in the middle. Just a little bit. There were a lot of scenes of people sitting in the family room, waiting around in the hospital, and just not much happening… and that is exactly how it usually is in a hospital situation. So, while I felt the story slowed down just a bit, it was actually kind of realistic for the situation and ultimately didn’t impact my overall enjoyment of the book.
If you have read any of my young adult book reviews, you have probably noticed that do not like stories with whining, angst-riddled characters. Not all YA books are like that, of course, but some YA books that could be great are often ruined by these types of characters – for me anyway. That is why I love middle grade books… because you almost never get that type of character. Even when dealing with very difficult topics, middle grade stories and characters always feel so honest and innocent and real. Cyclone is a perfect example of the type of middle grade book I love.
I can’t believe this is the author’s debut middle grade book. She has written kid’s chapter books and picture books in the past, but this is her first middle grade book and I am absolutely impressed. I hope she writes more because I will definitely read them.
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