Read this if you’re in the mood for: contemporary YA, magic realism, unreliable narrator, atmosphere, excellent characterization
Summary: Every October Cara and her family become inexplicably and unavoidably accident-prone. Some years it's bad, like the season when her father died, and some years it's just a lot of cuts and scrapes. This accident season—when Cara, her ex-stepbrother, Sam, and her best friend, Bea, are 17—is going to be a bad one. But not for the reasons they think.
Cara is about to learn that not all the scars left by the accident season are physical: There's a long-hidden family secret underneath the bumps and bruises. This is the year Cara will finally fall desperately in love, when she'll start discovering the painful truth about the adults in her life, and when she'll uncover the dark origins of the accident season—whether she’s ready or not.
Read this if you like:
THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater
The atmosphere and otherworldliness of THE SCORPIO RACES reminds me a bit of THE ACCIDENT SEASON. Of course, THE SCORPIO RACES has an indeterminate time and TAS is set in present-day, but both have very vivid language and excellent imagery.
WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart
Comparison with a caveat: This is going to be one of the most common comparisons to THE ACCIDENT SEASON, but besides the use of an unreliable narrator (though Cara is SIGNIFICANTLY more reliable than Cady), and the suspense of not knowing all the pieces of the story as they slowly come together, this book couldn't be more different. (If you were put off by the fragmented writing style in WE WERE LIARS and disliked the pretentious characters, you'll probably be a much bigger fan of THE ACCIDENT SEASON.)
The Rec: The first thing that stood out to me in this book is the eeriness. As if the concept of the Accident Season isn't enough—with the perpetual tension that builds and builds waiting for the next bad thing to happen—Cara, the main character, discovers that one of her old friends, Elsie, appears in every single picture she's ever taken. But Elsie isn't in school, and no one else seems to know who she is, and Cara, Sam, Bea, and Cara's older sister Alice can't find any trace of her. Creepy, right?
The whole book is atmospheric and somewhat fantastical like this — with a disappearing costume shop, an abandoned ghost house, ominous Tarot cards, a Secrets Box, and more. It's set in Ireland, but in the subtle way of being written by a local who's writing about locals, and everything from the woods to the town contribute to the overall fascination and discomfort you feel as a reader as you witness everything unfold.
Cara is a poetic narrator, and the writing is vivid and imaginative and wholly engrossing. As a reader, you begin to doubt what is real and what isn't, but the book keeps you tethered to reality. I loved how Cara, Bea, Sam, and Alice contributed to the plot, each very deftly characterized and totally unique, all with their own damage and secrets.
There are some heavy issues at hand, especially when everything begins to unravel. It's very gripping and a little disturbing, and I highly, highly recommend reading it... with the lights on.
The Caveat: This book gets a little fantastical at times, but it never feels over the top and it ties into the plot.
You should read this because: Eerie, engrossing, and atmospheric, with vivid characters and imagery, THE ACCIDENT SEASON is a standout debut!
Recommendation by: Donna