Joanne Rossmassler Fritz
Published November 14, 2023
The sensitive, suspenseful story of a family coping with a life-changing tragedy, told in stunning verse.
Is it wrong to grieve for someone who is still alive?
Claire’s mom and dad don’t talk to each other much anymore. And they definitely don’t laugh or dance the way they used to. Their tense, stilted stand offs leave thirteen-year-old Claire, an only child, caught in the middle. So when the family takes their annual summer vacation, Claire sticks her nose in a book and hopes for the best. Maybe the sunshine and ocean breeze will fix what’s gone wrong.
But while the family is away, Claire’s mother has a ruptured brain aneurysm–right after she reveals a huge secret to Claire. Though she survives the rupture, it seems like she is an entirely different person. Claire has no idea if her mom meant what she said, or if she even remembers saying it. With the weight of her mom’s confession on her shoulders, Claire must navigate fear, grief, and prospects for recovery.
Will her mom ever be the same? Will her parents stay together? And if the answer to either question is yes, how will Claire learn to live with what she knows? This beautifully written novel speaks to kids’ fears and credits their strength, and stems from the author’s incredible experience surviving two ruptured aneurysms.
I devoured this entire novel in one sitting. Claire’s frustration with her parents, the pressure she feels at her mother’s secret, it all felt so real and raw. Then, after her mother had the brain aneurysm rupture, Claire’s fear and grief were palpable. I’ve never been through something like what she went through with a parent, but the author brought me with her through that experience.
Another thing that I really liked was the way that Claire built a community of support for herself and her family. It isn’t something she does intentionally, but she does make choices that help her to create those connections. From making friends with a boy at the hospital to joining a support group and attending counseling at school to leaning into her relationship with her aunt, Claire finds ways to connect with others.
I love that there are books about these experiences not only for kids who will go through them or have been through them, but also for kids who haven’t. Reading about a child whose parent has a brain aneurysm rupture and recovers can help someone respond with more compassion and understanding if someone they know has a loved one going through this.
I think this is actually the second book about a brain aneurysm rupture that I’ve ever read. In Cammie McGovern’s JUST MY LUCK, which is also wonderful, I think the dad has a rupture and a long recovery that impacts the family.
I loved Rossmassler Fritz’s debut novel in verse, and this one must be shelved right beside it. What an emotional journey! Whew. And bravo to a fabulous writer for finding the courage to share such a personal story.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
Claire’s family is white. She befriends a Black boy whose mom has also had a brain aneurysm rupture. Claire’s best friend is Latine.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
People mention praying for Claire’s mom and her family.
Claire’s mom collapses after experiencing terrible head pain. Claire calls 911 and waits at a hospital to hear whether her mom will survive.
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