Every October Cara and her family become inexplicably accident-prone. Some years it’s bad, like the season when her father died, and some years it’s just a lot of cuts and scrapes. They know what they need to do—stock up on bandages and painkillers, cover sharp table edges with padding, banish knives to locked drawers, switch off electrical items. They buckle up, they batten down.
But this accident season—when Cara; her ex-stepbrother, Sam; and her best friend, Bea, are seventeen—none of that will make a difference.
Because Cara is starting to ask questions. And the answers were never meant to be found.
A haunting, untethered, addictive read that perfectly captures that time in our lives when our hearts crack open and the raw secrets of our true selves burst forth—whether we are ready or not. – Goodreads
First of all, I want to state that this book cannot be strictly considered YA even though it follows the lives of four teenagers. Obviously I love YA, but I am realistic enough to realize that a lot of YA will not appeal to a large audience. This book, however, is a gem, and I think anyone can read and enjoy it. I even recommended it to my mom, who is more of a murder mystery and chick lit kind of reader. It is absolutely a brilliant read for all ages.
We start with our narrator, Cara. She lives with her mother, sister Alice, and ex-stepbrother, Sam. Cara’s best friend is Bea, a tarot card reading eccentric who I just adored. Sam’s father left Cara’s mother four years prior, but the accident season has been around for as long as Cara can remember. One year, the accident season killed Cara’s grandfather, and another, her father. Her family has broken bones, they are hit by cars, they fall into rivers. They are truly accident-prone. But the accident season is taken as a given by the family, so it’s almost an afterthought for us as readers. It is presented as something that always happens, so it is in the background of the actual story. The actual story is about Cara. She is a bit of an outsider in the life of her sister, but they are all very close, a foursome. Cara is flipping through her photos on day and notices that they all include a girl named Elsie, who Cara hasn’t spoken to in many years. On the day Cara notices this, Elsie disappears, and no one knows where she is. In fact, no one seems to remember who Elsie is at all.
There is more though, and it’s complicated, not only because you get the sense that Cara doesn’t know everything, or that she’s hiding something, but because there is a magic that hovers above these kids and the places they go. A frozen river in the middle of a mild October night, an abandoned house that whispers to them, Tarot cards that are always on point. The mystical nature of what’s happening around them is tempered by the very real violence that seems to always happen to them during the accident season. They made stupid decisions because they’re kids, and they each struggle with an emotional burden so heavy they’re lucky they’re not crushed. Who wouldn’t want to escape that to act like normal kids every once in a while?
Elsie is frequently an afterthought, then she is right up in your face. Cara turns away and forgets, turns back and there Elsie is, waiting. Who is Elsie? What happened to Cara’s uncle Seth? What is no one saying, what secrets are they keeping? Is the accident season real? Is it magical? You know what is for sure magical in this book? The friendships. So while this novel is about secrets and how to unravel them, it is also about the friendships forged between three girls and one boy, the closeness, the security, the absolute love they all share. It is amazing. There is a little romance, but the friendship takes center stage, and it is so refreshing to see.
When the truth comes out, when the magic unravels, it’s powerful and painful and it hurts, but it also feels so, so good. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is the kind of book anyone can read and enjoy, and everyone should read it. I loved this book so much.