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", and 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.