Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance by Catherine Ryan Hyde + Book QnA

Author Week: Catherine Ryan Hyde is off to a great start! Here's the review for the second book I got to read by Catherine. Enjoy!

Cynnie takes care of herself—and more importantly, she takes care of her little brother, Bill. So it doesn't matter that her mom is drunk all the time. Cynnie's got her own life. Cynnie's the one Bill loves more than anyone. Cynnie's the real mother in the house. And if there's one thing she knows for sure, it's that she'll never, ever sink as low as her mother.

But when things start to fall apart, Cynnie needs a way to dull the pain.

Never say never.

This unflinching look at the power of addiction is the story of one girl's fall into darkness—and the strength, trust, and forgiveness it takes to climb back out again.

Grade: A+ - Read this book NOW!

Memorable Quotes:
"Wherever I went, it felt like the wrong place, and I needed to be somewhere else." (Page 51)

"I almost said I was never mad, I just sort of didn't care. But I didn't say it, because I started to know that it probably wasn't true. I was probably plenty mad without really knowing. And I probably did care. It takes me a long time, sometimes, to figure out how something is supposed to feel." (Page 164)

Review's up!
Everyone I've talked to about The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance seems to agree that Becoming Chloe sounds (and is, for those who have read both) better. I respectfully disagree. I loved Becoming Chloe, but this book spoke to me so much more personally.

When Cynnie grandparents take her three-year-old brother, Bill, away, leaving Cynnie to "make sure her mother is okay", Cynnie is miserable. To soothe the pain, she begins drinking. Even though she vowed never to become her alcoholic mother, Cynnie finds herself spiraling down a slippery slope and doesn't even realize it. When she's the cause of an accident that could've killed not only her, but her kid brother and one of her only friends, Cynnie is court-ordered to take the Alcoholics Anonymous program. And there, she begins facing and understanding all the damage she's caused.

Oh, where to begin, where to begin on saying how all-out fantastic this book was. The plot is dark, taking dips into abuse and vices, but the author doesn't try to make it easier to digest. Some parts had me going, "No! Don't do that, Cynnie!" But that's the thing--it got a reaction (and a big one, at that) out of me. I was incredibly invested in the story. Cynnie is a lost, broken, hurt, confused, cynical character who is just trying to do the best she can with her scant circumstances. She falls into the alcoholic abyss. She commits some godawful mistakes. Some of the choices she makes are downright stupid. It takes all the strength she has, and more, to climb out of the hole she dug for herself. And she does it! She does it for herself. Most importantly, she does it for her brother, who needs her.

Cynnie's strength is in all honesty amazing. She captivated me, and I don't know why, but I felt like I knew her and understood her (as much as I could, anyway) because of Catherine Ryan Hyde's stellar first-person portrayal of her.

This book just, I don't know, grabbed me and registered with me. It was very different from Becoming Chloe. Both were thought-provoking, but this one dug deeper in me. The writing here was still sharp as ever, but very introspective, because of the few people Cynnie allows herself to trust. The characters, even the secondary ones, were super well-developed and had not three, but four dimensions each. And best of all, the ending gave me hope for Cynnie. It wasn't too pessimistic or too optimistic--it was just right.

I wouldn't change a thing in this novel, and couldn't recommend it more. I can't say enough great things about Catherine Ryan Hyde, either. She's seriously an author to watch out for. If Becoming Chloe is in my list of top ten favorite books of all times, this is in the top five. I seriously challenge anyone to read it and see if it had the same effect on them.

I cannot wait to get started on the rest of Hyde's books!

Book QnA (with Catherine!)
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance?
I'm a recovering alcoholic and addict. I'm sure that helped me come up with this. Though I was not a teenager when I found the program 19 years ago.

Q: This story was hard to read because it was so heartbreaking, feeling Cynnie's desperation. Was it hard to write about it, too?
Not as much as you might think, because I knew where all her darkness was leading her.

Q: How did you do research for Cynnie's character?
A: The hard way, as mentioned earlier.

Q: What was your biggest motivation for writing this story?
Probably to see if I could open more of a dialogue about alcohol and drug abuse among teens. So many teens are dealing with both their own abuse and often their parents' as well. I was hoping this might be a book that parents and teens could both read, maybe even read together, maybe even discuss.

Q: Do you think Snake and Cynnie have a future?
In an earlier version, I had Cynnie telling her story at a speaker meeting. Talking from a grownup age. She said that she and Snake were together for a few years. That he was her first real boyfriend. And that he's married now and lives with his wife in (I forgot the name of the town I had them in) but that they still write. That's sort of the future I picture for them. Never entirely losing their bond.

Q: Where does Cynnie's strength come from? Moreover, do you think she's ultimately going to fully heal and stay sober?
A: I think that kind of strength is very common in kids who never really got to be kids. When you have to raise your brother and to some extent your mother as well, with no help from anyone, you find strength. You just grow it. Like a mother who picks up a car because her kid is trapped under it. Extraordinary trials tend to breed extraordinary strength.

I think Cynnie will stay sober, yes. And I think she'll gradually heal. I don't think anyone heals one hundred percent. That's where the concept of the "broken people" comes in. That's why I had Cynnie use that analogy of a cup that's been shattered and glued back together. It's never good as new and it might not look too pretty, but you can use it. That was a sort of nod to the reader regarding how much healing is realistic.


Well! I for one am still super thrilled this week is taking place, because these books are truly spectacular.

Reading Catherine's answers for the first (second, third, fourth, etc) time was equally fun. And tomorrow you get to know Catherine better yourself. Stay tuned for the author interview tomorrow!


Amee said...

Awesome review! You really made me want to read the book even though I have passed it by numerous times. I doubt I'll be passing it by again.

Steph said...

Eeee that's the effect I hope my review on it will have with people! Thanks, Ambeen! :D

Heather said...

awesome review, and I, too, have passed it up a few times at the bookstore in favor of something else but now want to read it.

Do you want to trade links? Our reviewing blog is Plenty of Paper
please check it out!

Liv said...

I haven't read any of Catherine's books yet, but I definitely will be now. I like the whole feature that you have going on. It's very cool!

Also, would you like to exchange links? I'm at Liv's Book Reviews

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