Review: The Probability of Miracles

The book's effectively communicates the book's genre - quirky chick lit.

The book's effectively communicates the book's genre - quirky chick lit.

Gabrielle Vuylsteke

The book’s cover effectively communicates the book’s genre – quirky chick lit.

Mix John Green’s language and the preposterous trippiness of “Going Bovine” with the charm of a quirky chick lit book and you get Wendy Wunder’s “The Probability of Miracles.”

Cam, short for Campbell, is your average sarcastic, hipster teen. Unlike other angsty teens, she has good reason for her attitude: Her dad is dead, she has bound-to-be-terminal cancer and Disney World’s endless optimism won’t let her be. Cam is resigned to her impending death, but her perpetually hopeful mom Alicia is not. When Cam’s doctor says only a miracle will save her, Alicia is determined to find one.  At the advice of her boyfriend, Alicia takes Cam and her little sister Perry to Promise, Maine for the summer. Promise is rumored to be a town where unaccountable events are routine and even the miraculous can occur. Alicia hopes that its magic will work on Cam. With the help of Asher, the charming boy-next-door, Cam sets out to complete every item on her Bucket-esque Flamingo List before she dies.

Disney, childhood stories and pop culture have infused children with the belief that everything is possible and fairy tales can come true, either with hard work or a convenient dose of magic. Cam, however, is convinced that science is the only answer, and believes in evolution and reason rather than miracles. This book is her journey to investigate the possibility of the unforeseen.

The language of this book is absolutely gorgeous. Each description is poetic, with figurative language and imagery that lets you see Cam’s surroundings and smell the accompanying scents. Wunder’s descriptive prose allows readers to truly experience the setting and understand how Cam interprets it. When the author describes Cam’s Nana’s house, you can smell freshly brewed coffee and see a scarf carelessly tossed to the side table. Wunder paints feasible, quirky pictures with her words.

Cam’s personal thoughts are unique as well. They have character and are quotable. Her vocabulary is not limited to everyday words, but also includes words that are realistic for her age and show her heart.  At moments, her words are so true and thought-provoking that you know that she is real.

While the book is a chick-lit story full of anti-luck arguments, it is also a love story for young adults. While the book is somewhat predictable, with a commonplace romantic interest and easily foreseeable U-turn, the book is still lovable. With the whimsical elements that are mixed in, the book is cozy but not boring.

At times elements of “The Hunger Games,” “A Knot in the Grain,” and the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” books, and, to a greater degree, “Going Bovine” were evident in Wunder’s writing style. The book also directly references a few well-known books and movies, including “The Sound of Music” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” With the influences of all of these books, Wunder weaves a world that is fantastical and dream-like as well as firmly planted in reality.

While the book was wonderful, it was not without fault. At times, dialogue, especially between Cam and Perry, was dry. Witty or emotional exchanges were without vigor and life. In the same way, there were multiple times when the elaborate detail provided was too much and reminded the reader that the story wasn’t actually a stream of thought but was instead fictitious. Some details were either too far-fetched, like baby food meat snacks, or too insubstantial, like the kind of candy Perry brings with her on the road trip.

On the whole, “The Probability of Miracles” is an enjoyable read. While unrealistic at times, it is clever, endearing, and mixes two nearly incomprehensible topics into one teen’s journey of self-discovery.

Book cover from the author’s website,