Miracle, Jennifer Lane
Being a 14 year old girl is never an easy undertaking, but living in a dying town, in a family beset with problems makes Miracle's life that bit more complicated.
She's known as Miracle because she was born in the middle of Australia's biggest-ever earthquake. The same quake that so traumatised her older brother that he's been left living with an ongoing mental health / nervous issue. Her mother's agoraphobic, her father's not coping with unemployment, and the boy she really likes, Oli, is playing really cruel tricks on her. All in all, a bit of a mess. Anyone who has read Lane's first book ALL OUR SECRETS might see the ghost of Gracie in Miracle - she's a dab hand at the creation of strong, young girls, surrounded by chaotic families, stepping up and in.
Which would make you think that her father's new job at Compassionate Cremations would be a good thing, but that just ends up adding to Miracle's feelings of guilt because she's the one that pushed her father towards the job. When the Crematorium becomes the centre of town gossip about a spate of sudden deaths, and her father is arrested after a brutal attack on the boy she fancies there, the job seems less important, and her role in putting her father it, and her reactions to Oli's behaviour seems like the tipping point.
The connection that all readers will have to have to get MIRACLE to work is obviously going to be with Miracle herself. A brave, conflicted, complicated young girl, she's believable and really real - alternatively bolshie and fragile, whip smart and thick as a brick. The story really does centre around the concept of bravery, coping and pressing on. It's also about learning empathy and understanding, and finding the good in what seems like absolutely dreadful situations, and dreadful people.
The plot is cleverly constructed to keep the focus on Miracle, while all around her events seem to swirl and move into and out of focus, never quite giving the reader time to settle, or necessarily to pick up on a direction. In the early stages the role of the Crematorium, and its boss, her parents, her brother, her aunt and the extended family, and other members of the town shapeshift into and out of the main story line, with Miracle dealing with a very big signal to noise ratio at points. Her confusion is palpable, her panic very real, and the reactions of everybody around her used to highlight a complicated scenario.
At the end of the day though, as events spiral further, Oli succumbs to his injuries, and doubts start to emerge about Miracle's dad's involvement, the family pushes and shoves against each other, and Miracle finds out a lot about growing up. It's an interesting layer to place within a crime story, and one that I found utterly fascinating and disconcerting all at the same time.
Born in the middle of Australia’s biggest-ever earthquake, Miracle is fourteen when her world crumbles. Thanks to her dad’s new job at Compassionate Cremations — which falls under suspicion for Boorunga’s spate of sudden deaths — the entire town turns against their family. Miracle is tormented by her classmates, even by Oli, the boy she can’t get out of her head. She fears for her agoraphobic mother, and for her angelic, quake-damaged brother, Julian.
When Oli plays a cruel trick on Miracle, he sets off a chain of devastating events. Then her dad is arrested for a brutal attack. Miracle takes the full weight on her shoulders. How can she convince the town of her dad’s innocence?