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Book Report: The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder

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The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder [website | twitter]
Release Date: December 8, 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 357
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardback from the library for E; Hardback owned by M.
How we found out about it: Well, it seems like everyone and their grandma had read this book so it’s about time we did too!

Summary: Cam doesn’t believe in miracles or happily ever afters. How could she? After years of treatment for cancer, there’s nothing more to do except join her mom and sister on a road trip to Promise, Maine — a place where the most unbelievable things can happen. Or so they say. Will the intriguing existence of Asher finally get her out of her room? Or will it be the pressure to fulfill the flamingo/bucket list she made with her best friend a few years back?

Magan: Hello, lovely Estelle! Ready to discuss The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder?

Estelle: Very, very ready!

M: So… overall, how did you feel about this book? Love it? Hate it?

E: I definitely didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to. How about “liked very much”?

M: I feel the same way. I had a VERY hard time getting into the book and loving the Cam. Did you feel immediately connected to the story, if at all?

E: I think I felt connected to the story in some way because of the Disney references. It feels dumb to even say that because she was basically insulting everything Disney is all about (and I feel the complete opposite) but her quips about the company made me laugh and it felt like Disney was a big part of her family foundation. I’m not sure how we were supposed to connect with Cam because she was so sarcastic and sort of accepting of her short life sentence. I know I wouldn’t have acted the same way. (Long answer. haha)

M: I think that’s why I didn’t connect with her. She didn’t seem to have any hope. Maybe if I were going through a similar situation (or had a family member with terminal cancer) I would feel differently, but she just acted like she was a lost cause. I guess I’d like to think I’m more of a fighter than that. Aside from the Disney connection, when did you feel the story really picked up?

E: The story felt like it split into three parts for me. The first would be up until they got to Maine. The second when she started doing those deeds for her sister and mother. And the third when her relationship with Asher began to flourish. The story really started to move for me around the second part. I just wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen. What about for you?

M: I 100% agree with your breakdown of the book. I found the first 100ish page to be really slow. Once they got to Maine I was more interested, but she holed herself up in the widow’s walk and spent a lot of time alone. I was so intrigued by Asher that I really just wanted to learn more about his story. When that happened, I felt 10x more invested in the book. Maybe I just really like good love stories… Ha!

E: I totally agree with you. I almost feel like we got jipped because I didn’t think I got to know Asher as well as I thought I would, even from the flap of the book. It was pretty deceiving.

M: Yes! I definitely thought there would be more development between Asher and Cam. I liked that he was always around, but their relationship went from acquaintances to “I love yous” pretty quickly. Maybe that was partly due to Cam having cancer, but I would have found it more believable if we’d had more of them. I mean, there are parts like “Ass Whisperer” that really made me laugh out loud. I wanted more of that.

E: Yes! I loved Asher’s sense of humor and wish the structure of the book was a little bit different. It never felt cliche or super dramatic or unnatural… just a little jarring? Don’t get me wrong. I liked Cam’s personality. It was way different than I was expecting and there were many moments I loved and then just didn’t. (Her encounter at that party? I had to go back and read that a few times because I didn’t even realized what happened.) I never felt like I had a clear grasp on who she was and what her intentions were and what she was feeling.

M: OH, yeah! When her mom (Alicia) and Perry went off on her about how selfish she was I didn’t feel like I clearly understood or related to their feelings. I liked how it affected and changed Cam for the better, but it felt like I was watching everything unfold but wasn’t emotionally involved. Do you think that could have something to do with it being written in third person? It took me a LONG time to adapt to that and definitely wish it had been written from Cam’s POV.

E: That’s a really good point. We are somewhat detached as readers because of that choice. I’m not sure if I can imagine the book in first person though. Is that weird? I don’t even know if that would help. She seemed to keep people at a distance until she didn’t anymore and maybe that’s just something we had to accept?

M: Maybe so. I suppose she did that because she was sick. It’s just so sad and lonely to me. She didn’t have many friends and she kept people at arm’s length. I think I’d just want to die surrounded by the people I love. I wouldn’t want to leave them with memories of me being so secluded and alone. (Trying to avoid spilling too much about how the story progressed with Cam.)

E: It’s really hard to talk about this book without spilling all of its secrets.

M: Yup. So, my favorite things were a) getting to know Asher, b) the flamingos, c) learning about Maine, and… d) actually the VERY end of the book. The last few pages had me in tears. What did you love about it?

E: I also did love Asher. I loved Cam’s sister Perry and the big speech she has at one point. The grandma was another awesome character. And I couldn’t get enough of the Disney references as I said earlier. I was glad they popped up throughout the entire book. That was actually one of the highlights. There were some super amazing details throughout the whole thing.

M: OH MY GOSH, NANA! Yes, she was awesome. I loved her windbreakers. Haha.

E: Can we talk about the ending for a teenie tiny bit?

M: Of course! *READERS: There may be spoilers beyond this point!* What’s on your mind?

E: It all happened really fast, and what necessary happened, I thought might not. If that makes sense.

M: It was another one of those situations where there was a swift and abrupt change that I wasn’t expecting. I felt like we were driving along at full speed and then Wunder put on the breaks. There was no warning (or at least very minimal warnings).

E: When you say it like that, it makes it seem like it was intentional but it came off a bit melodramatic to me. (Ugh. I’m heartless!)

M: Hmm. Maybe I’m not communicating how I feel very well because I completely agree with you. I am not a reader that cannot fill in the gaps for herself, but I just felt like there was information lacking because the turn of events was so sudden.

E: Yes. You are so right. I felt like that happened quite a few times. Too many almost. Unresolved stuff? Like things with Lily?

M: OH, gosh, YES! I don’t know. I feel like because of those times, I lost a lot of love I might have otherwise had for the book. (Not to say I didn’t like it, but I felt very conflicted when choosing my Goodreads rating on this book.)

E: I had the same problem. I really liked the personalities, I liked the writing style too, and the ideas that were there were very good and intriguing. It just didn’t reach the point I wanted it to. I’ve also been a crying manic with books lately, and I was surprised I didn’t feel more emotional until the very last couple of pages.

M: I kept expecting my heart to break or … to feel ALL THE THINGS throughout, but I just didn’t. One more question. How did you feel about the Flamingo lists? I, personally, wish they would have been eliminated from the book or wish she had found them after some of the check marks had been completed. I felt like these things seemed a bit contrived at times.

E: I didn’t love them very much either. It seemed like something they made up as kids, and maybe if they had been sort of rewritten together. That would have introduced another bond they had and more feelings? I’m not sure. I think that the events that happened, the ones related to the list would have happened no matter what, and maybe using the lists as a reference would have worked better. More of a “haha, we were SO clever” kind of thing instead of a guide.

M: Again, I definitely agree with you. There was a part at the end with Asher where I thought, “If this place existed, why wouldn’t they have visited it anyway? Why did they need the list to bring them there?” So any final thoughts? Skip it, borrow it, or own it?

E: Definitely borrow it. Sometimes I think we are so spoiled because we read so many books all the time, and some of them are winners and some aren’t. I definitely could see many people enjoying this book and really getting into it.

M: It’s a borrow kind of book for me as well. I think I’m also suffering from having read a lot of books about a family member dying this year (I am aware that it sounds like I have a death complex or something). I have been blown away by a few of them and this one just didn’t hit me in the same way.

E: It’s kind of interesting to think about what factors contribute to you latching onto a book so much. What’s going on in your life, what you read right before it, the time of year…

M: Brilliant point! I love that. I would really like to hear from other people who’ve read this book. Maybe some will disagree with us. (If you’ve read this, tell us how you felt about it in the comments below!)

E: Yes! Fight with us!!! Or actually. Maybe not. 🙂

In case you’re interested, here are a few more reviews of The Probability of Miracles, both from people who agree and disagree with us:

  • Ginger at GReads! gave it five stars. | Review
  • Khy at the Frenetic Reader says she thinks there was a “complete lack of emotional connection.” | Review
  • Anna at Anna Reads thinks everyone will love it. | Review
  • Kristi at the Story Siren called it incredible. | Review

Add to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

March 7, 2012 - 11:55 am

Magan - April, you make a really good point. I’m listening to my first audio book now, and it’s a much different experience than reading a book. I agree that we were both pretty down when we didn’t love PoM. 🙂

March 7, 2012 - 11:54 am

Magan - I’ll be really curious to know what you think after you read it, Mands. I’ll keep a lookout for your review once you’ve read it. 🙂

March 4, 2012 - 8:52 am

April Books & Wine - I wonder if I connected more deeply with The Probability of Miracles because I listened to the audiobook, so it felt like Cam was a real person telling me her story?

It sucks that you guys did not fall head over heels in love with PoM. 🙁 But I get why, after reading this. And I really sincerely do wonder if the audiobook is a whole other experience compared to print.

March 1, 2012 - 10:36 pm

VeganYANerds - Another fun book report, girls! I haven’t read this and I kept thinking it was because it was a 2012 release so I’m surprised to see if was released last year, I need to read this. I’ve read Anna’s review and now yours and I’m hoping it’s as good as it sounds, even if there’s not a strong connection with the main character.

March 1, 2012 - 8:39 pm

Tara @ Hobbitsies - These joint discussion things are so fun! It makes me wish I had a second blogger so I can do stuff like this, HAH.

But I’m sorry you guys didn’t love The Probability of Miracles as much as you wanted to! I really, really loved it, it affected me in so many ways. But my boyfriend’s brother passed away last February from cancer, so POM was one of the first and probably last cancer books I’ll be reading, at least for a good, long time.

Thanks for the honest review!

March 1, 2012 - 5:43 pm

Amy @ Tripping Over Books - Aww, I’m sorry you guys didn’t love it! I sort of did. Love it, that is. I thought that Cam was refreshing and snarky, and I appreciated why she thought her situation was kind of hopeless. Especially because I thought she got a little less hopeless at the end. But I can totally see how the beginning would be a little slow; the action in Promise was so much better. I thought the part where she visited her friend was a little bit unnecessary, but I got a kick out of the visit with her grandmother, mostly because she lived in Hoboken and I’m from Jersey myself ;-). Good call about personal experiences affecting your reading! SO TRUE.
Great review, ladies!! Thoughtful and honest and AWESOME.

March 1, 2012 - 5:02 pm

Liz - I couldn’t agree more with you guys more on this one. It feels like every review I read for this one gives it a glowing recommendation, so I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who didn’t absolutely love it.

There were parts that I enjoyed, but overall I really just didn’t connect to it as much as I would have hoped. Every point you both make here is dead on.

I really love your blog, it is quickly becoming one of my favourites!

March 1, 2012 - 4:30 pm

Magan - Anna, I know! I wanted to love it so much. I kept waiting for ALL THE FEELINGS to kick in, but it didn’t happen for me. 🙁 And we love you too!

March 1, 2012 - 1:24 pm

Anna - REVIEW TWINSIES. Or, well, triplet-sies? But still…wahh you didn’t love like I loved. But…but…whatever I love you anyway 🙂

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