Let me start by directing you towards the author’s name. Wendy Wunder. Book about miracles. Now, I may not be one to believe in miracles, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good coincidence. (And enjoy a name pun. With the initials ‘A.K.A.’, I think it’s a requirement.)
The Probability of Miracles (thankfully containing no actual math) leaves it to the reader to decide whether the strange things that happen are truly miracles or just odd coincidences. Campbell Cooper, our sixteen-year-old dry wit protag, is prone to erring on the side of caution. There are no miracles. Cam’s had a pretty bad run of life—her parents’ divorce, followed by her father dying from cancer, followed by her getting cancer . . . and all while living at the Happiest Place on Earth. That’s right: Walt Disney World, where Cam’s mom, Alicia, works.
Alicia believes in miracles, though, and when Cam’s cancer is deemed a lost cause (“What you need is a miracle,” says Cam’s doctor), Alecia packs up Cam and her younger sister, Perry, to spend what will likely be Cam’s last summer in Promise, Maine, where there are flamingos and purple dandelions and sunsets that last for hours. Maybe here, they will find Cam a miracle. Even if it isn’t the one anyone is expecting.
I read The Probability of Miracles in one night. I looked up when I had finished to see that it was suddenly eleven at night—and I still hadn’t written anything for NaNoWriMo that day. It’s just the tiniest bit super enthralling that way.
Cam may be an undeniable pessimist, but she’s the nice sort of pessimist—the sort that’s pessimistic because, well, she’s dying (just a bit of a bummer, that), but at the same time recognizes her pessimism and occasionally tries to lighten it up a bit for Alecia and Perry. I adore Cam. She’s witty without seeming overdone; witty to a spoken degree, rather than to a writer-sitting-at-a-desk-has-all-day-to-think-of-a-clever-line degree. She tends to go off the deep end rather often. She makes crappy choices. She’s dying after all, and finds herself trying to fit an entire bucket list into a few short months. While I may have occasionally thought she moves too fast and is too unsupervised (dare I say: where are the parents in YA?), I never found myself disliking Cam, or thinking ill of her because of her choices. Wunder has done a remarkable job of keeping Cam believable and identifiable, even as she dies of cancer, even as she makes some remarkably bad decisions.
This is in part because of the quick pacing of the novel. One event quickly moves on to take the place of the next. There are days-long gaps in between chapters every now and then. Time passes quickly. There aren’t many real obstacles. Characters decide to do something; characters do it. It seems rushed for a moment, then you remember that it’s been four days since the last chapter ended–there has been time for x, y, and z to be planned—the author has just skipped over that phase, because frankly, it’d be boring to read and the book is 350 pages long as is. I didn’t notice until I was halfway through the book that Cam, Alicia, and Perry still hadn’t made it to Maine. The 350 pages go quickly, and because Cam is so likable, anything unrealistic or overly quick melts into the background. A lot happens in those 350 pages, but I never questioned any of it, or how easily each new event came–characters decide to do something, characters do it. No questions asked.
A bit grim and a bit serious at times (have I mentioned how the main character spends the entire book dying?), The Probability of Miracles still comes highly recommended. Keep some chocolate on hand and a good chunk of time set aside to finish it in one go, if necessary. And now I leave you with one last horrible name pun: it’ll be a miracle if stores can keep this book on their shelves! Ha. Ha. Ha.
Kat Alexander is a Figment Reviewer who (clearly) loves to read and comment. She’s active on a number of sites including NaNo, Fiction Press, and FanFiction under aneko24.