Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy

Source: Purchased Hooray for Books
Hardcover, 352 pages
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Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy is young adult novel that never speaks down to its reader as it asks questions about what it means to be a friend and what it means to be a neighbor and community member.  When tragedy strikes the fictional community of Franklin Grove in Meigs County, outside Washington, D.C., teen babysitter Danielle Snyder must cope with feelings of guilt and responsibility.  Her fear of speaking in public has haunted her long before the tragedy, but it is the loss of her friend, Humphrey, that causes her to speak out, to advocate on his behalf.  An unlikely friendship between a sophomore babysitter and a five-year-old boy blooms in the summer, but when it’s cut short, how does Danielle reconcile their unlikely connection and what has happened under her watch, especially when the small community is looking for someone to blame.

“I eat; the talk shifts to nothing in particular, which is good.  It’s as though we’re strangers sitting at the same table in one of those family-style restaurants.  We feel the need to make conversation, because that is what polite people do, but we are careful to keep the conversation safe.  Nothing to ignite sparks between Adrian and Mom.  Nothing to upset me.”  (page 4)

Her family life is not necessarily dysfunctional, but its not exactly serene when her brother Adrian is visiting after moving out.  And despite their inability to relate and emote without raising one another’s dander, the tragedy somehow brings them closer to reconciliation.  Shifting between the present after the tragedy and the past before the tragedy, Levy unfolds her story in an intricate way, allowing readers to see the whole complicated picture, even as Danielle begins to see it for the first time.  While her family dynamics play a role in the background, the real focus is on her relationship with Humphrey and the blame she lays at her own door for the tragedy.

“I rapped.  I crooned.  I rocked out.  Somehow dancing outdoors felt easier than in a school gym or hotel party room.  Plenty of space for my arms and legs.  I let myself lose control, and danced like crazy on the planet of Thrumble-Boo.

‘You look like a beautiful daddy longlegs!’ Humphrey said.”  (page 195)

Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy is about relationships that surprise us, about the illogical arguments of grief and assigning blame, but more than that, it’s about finding our way out of that grief to recognize the beauty in knowing and experiencing those relationships we may lose sooner than expected.  Levy’s characters are real, they’re the kids down the street searching for a sense of belonging, and they are burdened by the same emotions we all feel as adults.  It’s a highly emotional read that will leave a lasting impression.

About the Author:

Debbie Levy writes books — fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — for people of all different ages, and especially for young people. Before starting her writing career, she was a newspaper editor; before that, she was a lawyer with a Washington, D.C. law firm.  She has a bachelor’s degree in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, and a law degree and master’s degree in world politics from the University of Michigan.  She lives in Maryland and spends as much time as she can kayaking and otherwise messing around in the Chesapeake Bay region.  Visit her Website, Facebook, and Twitter.