Danielle Snyder’s summer job as a babysitter takes a tragic turn when Humphrey, the five-year-old boy she’s watching, runs in front of oncoming traffic to chase down his football. Immediately Danielle is caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented alien, outsiders use the accident to further a politically charged immigration debate. Wanting only to mourn Humphrey, the sweet kid she had a surprisingly strong friendship with, Danielle tries to avoid the world around her. Through a new relationship with Justin, a boy she meets at the park, she begins to work through her grief, but as details of the accident emerge, much is not as it seems. It’s time for Danielle to face reality, but when the truth brings so much pain, can she find a way to do right by Humphrey’s memory and forgive herself for his death?
Available July 16, 2013
Imperfect Spiral is the kind of book I love to read. To say it was artfully arranged would be an understatement.
The story revolves around Humphrey Danker and his babysitter, Danielle. What started out as a fun evening in the park ends in tragedy when Humphrey is struck and killed by a vehicle while walking home. What happens next is a perfect example of what would occur in the real world. The community gets involved, and suddenly everyone else “owns” Humphrey’s death. They want sidewalks and lights on Quarry Road, they want all illegal immigrants deported—turning the tragedy into a circus.
The story arc of this book felt like a puzzle to me, and I mean that in the best way. We have Justin, the boy who Danielle meets in the park—he turns out to be the son of the people who hit Humphrey. We have Mr. Danker, who at first is cold and distant to Danielle, who changes after his son’s death and offers to help Justin (an illegal immigrant) stay in the country.
Each of the revelations was surprising to me. The story was so carefully created—it wasn’t that the author used distraction to keep the reader from figuring it out, I was just caught up in everything, so every pivotal moment felt right and fell into the perfect spot.
Danielle was an easy character to relate to. She was compassionate and kind, she loved Humphrey, but she was still a teenager. She suffered a lot of uncertainty throughout the story, but that felt true. She wasn’t whiney or overly dramatic, but we experienced her personal turmoil as she interacted with her counselor, her parents, and her friends.
Every character had a history and well-rounded place. The ending was satisfying, leaving enough to the imagination, but also closing all the character’s stories in a way that was believable and hopeful.
I read somewhere that this book was for fans of Jodi Picoult. I love Jodi Picoult books, and I loved this book, but I’m not sure that the two are all that similar. Jodi has a specific way of writing that jumps you around from character to character. Imperfect Spiral is told from Danielle’s point of view. Jodi’s books often focus on legal proceedings, Imperfect Spiral, though it does have some “town hall” type meetings, is more about the relationships and personal growth. I think readers of Jodi Picoult will enjoy this book, but I also think they should understand that it is not written in a similar fashion (and that’s fine—it doesn’t need to be!).
If you like stories that leave you feeling hopeful and satisfied—you’ll love Imperfect Spiral.