I hadn’t heard of The Probability of Miracles until I was sent it to review. I’m not sure how it slipped my YA contemporary radar (perhaps because I really do not like the US hardback cover, which looks very 80s and not in a good way), but it was just what I was looking for.
I was a little hesitant to begin with because I wondered whether it was going to be a-lesson-in-religion due to its title and because the UK cover (right) reminds me of the In-Between in the movie adaptation of The Lovely Bones. Yet the cover is not heaven, but a concoction of symbols that represent what is so remarkable about Promise, Maine, USA. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Seventeen-year-old Campbell has had cancer since she was twelve. Her mother Alicia and younger sister Perry surprise her with a trip to Maine – to a town named Promise, because it is supposedly where miracles happen and is sure to be the key to her cure – Campbell has tried everything else. She’s dying, and she’s accepted it, but her family hasn’t. So they leave the fantasy Disney world of Orlando, Florida, where they reside, and head to the east coast to spend the summer by the sea.
The Probability of Miracles is wacky, whimsical, sometimes ridiculous, and always completely eccentric, but never in a way that is ever silly or irritating. It encompasses all of my latest favourite things: young adult contemporary with a splash of romance, road trips, and Maine (if you know me well, you’ll know I’ve been slightly obsessed with Maine ever since I watched the video for Mine by Taylor Swift two summers ago). Although it takes a less conservative and idealistic view of the state, it still sounds pretty damn awesome to me. Its relaxed nature is contrasted with Campbell’s hectic home: Disneyland Florida, where she lives among entertainers and is an expert hula dancer.
The Probability of Miracles really is a wonderful novel, full of self-discovery, belief in science and pushing on even though life is unbearably difficult and you end up having a seizure in a supermarket car park. Campbell keeps a Flamingo List (i.e. a bucket list but less senior) with her best friend Lily, which includes ‘dabble in some innocent stalking behaviour’ and ‘experiment with petty shoplifting’ in an attempt to be a ‘typical teenager’ while she still can. Campbell remains strong throughout the novel; she takes chances and experiences new things even though she’d rather be tucked up in bed with Disturbing Behavior or The Sound of Music. Campbell’s an interesting protagonist, and I really do mean that. I never, ever got bored of her story.
Although there is a love-interest – Asher, a local boy who has a devastating story of his own – and an awkwardly-developing-but-seriously-adorable romance, this was never the main point of the story for me. I’m still thinking about it after finishing, about the little things that stood out to me and the sentences I read again because they were so hilarious. The Probability of Miracles is an extraordinary, captivating book and one I feel deserves more attention along the lines of Before I Die, The Sky is Everywhere and If I Stay. Do not let the ‘fish raining from the sky’ or ‘purple dandelions’ deter you from reading this story, it’s all part of its irrevocable charm.
You can read the first five chapters of the book here.
Thank you Razorbill for providing this book for review!