About the Book:
Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine — a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it’s undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingos in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe – in love, in herself, and even in miracles.
A debut novel from an immensely talented new writer, The Probability of Miracles crackles with wit, romance and humor and will leave readers laughing and crying with each turn of the page.
Our reviews for Wendy Wunder’s poignant debut novel were split along age lines. The “Young” readers unanimously reviewed the book in the “A” zone, while the “Adult” readers were mostly positive but a bit more varied, from Cara’s gushing response to Jenn’s mixed review. Ultimately, it’s clear that Wunder’s tale of a dying teen’s last chance at hope in a mysteriously “miraculous” town is worth reading. Many thanks to Penguin Young Readers for providing each of us with an Advanced Reader Copy for review!
“Young Reader Average”: A
Lily graded the book an A:
Cancer-ridden Cameron is certain she will die. In an effort to salvage her life, her mother takes Cam and her sister on a trip to Promise, Maine where miracles happen. As Cam spends more and more time in the curious town she experiences love, loss and happiness and bit by bit checks off items on a list of things to do before she dies.
“The Probability of Miracles” was the best book I’ve read so far [in the Teen Lit Rocks Book Club]. I found it funny, poignant and endearing. At the end (which I won’t spoil) I cried. I look forward to another book by Wendy Wunder.
Kiersten graded the book an A-:
I found that the book was very well written and had a new and interesting plot. The reappearance of flamingos throughout the book was a strong symbol. I enjoyed cam’s view on life and way of thinking. I also loved the fact that the book ended not with an image of death but with the image of hope as Buddy flies away.
Wendy graded the book an A:
It’s always hard to read a book about someone just a couple of years older than you who’s sick and dying. It’s not fair, you think — how can someone so young face their death? But what was great about Wendy Wunder’s book is that Cam isn’t calm and accepting about her death like some martyr. She’s sarcastic and funny and skeptical about all of the alternative ways her mom wants to try and “cure” her cancer. Cam knows there is no cure.
Although most readers will love everything that happens to Cam once she’s in Promise, Maine (after all, she feels better and finds love for the first and only time), I really loved the parts in Florida and on the roadtrip up to Maine. I knew very little about Polynesian culture (outside of what I saw on “Lilo and Stitch” and the occasional luau party), and the segment with her Italian-American grandmother was awesome.
The hardest thing was reading about the temporary falling out between Cam and her best friend. What happens made me cry, because the girls had known each other for so long and had battled cancer as best friends. I highly recommend the book, even though you will probably, like me, get emotional.
“Adult” Reader Average”: B
Cara graded the book an A:
When I received this book, my first thought was “A book by Wendy WUNDER called Probability of MIRACLES? Pfft. Can we try a little harder folks?” It is a very good thing that I didn’t judge this book by the cover (or the name, in this case), because it is one of the best books I read this year.
It is the story of Cam, a 16 year old girl with terminal cancer. She’s been through every treatment and experimental therapy available and while she doesn’t believe in miracles, her mother and 11 year old sister do, and they think they’ll find them in the aptly named town of Promise, Maine.
As she pursues her “flamingo list”, Cam begins to truly enjoy life. She finds herself, almost unwittingly, a part of a group of friends and involved with a boy who believes in the magic of Promise more than anyone. So despite her grim outlook and determination to stay that way, she unexpectedly finds hope.
My criticism of our last book of the month was that, while good, the dialogue and behavior didn’t feel true to teenagers. This book does. The characters were real witty. Their interactions were believable. I loved Cam and her unique family. Everyone should have a nana who has to make herself angry at them so she can let them leave without breaking down.
I sobbed as I finished this book in the locker room at my gym. I just couldn’t put it down to wait to finish it at home. It is the first book that has truly captured me in a while. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Wendy Wunder’s next book!
Diana graded the book a B-:
Wendy Wunder has written another novel about a teen with a terminal illness and how it affects her short life. Cam Cooper is a caustic, cynical teenager; a result of her father dying at a young age, and years of dealing with her cancer. She does not believe in anything and has little use for hope. She is a self attesting realist and often has difficulty dealing with her mother Alicia and little sister, Perry’s optimistic attitudes about her illness.
When Cam’s mother Alicia hears about a small town in Maine called Promise in which people claim that miracles occur, she decides to uproot the family there for the summer and find a miracle cure for Cam. Although Cam doesn’t want to go, she relents in the end when she sees how much it means to her mother and sister. The time in Promise ultimately changes Cam and her family. Cam is finally able to believe in hope, love and even miracles.
This is a touching story. However, it has been told time and time again. It’s hard not to compare this book with “Before I Die” by Jenny Downham. Both books have protagonists that deal with a terminal illness, are very pragmatic, have a “bucket list” and both girls find love at the end of their lives. The truth is that “The Probability of Miracles” is good, but “Before I Die” is exceptional. In the end, it’s a good novel about a topic that has been treated extensively and more effectively elsewhere.
Jenn graded the book a C:
When I first read the premise of Wendy Wunder’s “The Probability of Miracles,” I was really excited. It sounded like an interesting story, and I couldn’t wait to read it. Unfortunately, right from the start, I had problems relating to the main character, Cam.
I like sarcastic characters. (I grew up admiring Daria!) But Cam’s outright cynicism was off-putting. I realize that she has cancer and so she has no reason to be cheerful or positive. She didn’t need to be. I’m actually glad that Wunder didn’t go with the sappy dying teen trope, but Cam’s smug, judgmental, selfish attitude made it very difficult to root for her. I will give Wunder credit, though, for creating vivid characters. You get a really good sense of who they are and what motivates them. I also thought that the way the characters related to each other in this story was authentic.
Despite the fact that this is a very well-written book with beautiful imagery, an interesting premise, and realistic characters, it was a real struggle for me to get through. Near the end of the book, there are a couple of events that do make Cam seem a lot more pleasant, but it sort of felt like it was too little, too late.
It was really hard to decide how I felt about this story. I probably wouldn’t read it again. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to a friend. Overall, I do think that there were some good things about it, though.
Melanie graded the book a B+:
In the book, “The Probability of Miracles,” by Wendy Wunder, Cam Cooper is surrounded by people who believe in miracles, which she herself clings to the cold, hard facts. She has cancer. The doctors have nothing else to try. The end, she is told, is near.
Her mother and sister, in sheer desperation, drag her and all of her possessions to a hard-to-find little town called “Promise,” in Maine. It has been said that those who are able to find the town are sure to also find the miracle they seek. Throughout the summer cam struggles between her desire to cling only to facts, and the “fact” that she witnesses a great many unexpected blessings that might easily be labeled as “miracles.”
Reading cam’s journey toward belief in the midst of fear, uncertainty and denial has helped me consider my own willingness or unwillingness to believe in the miracle that i seek. I have learned that my unwillingness to believe stems more from fear that my miracle will not come true, than that I really believe it can’t happen.
This Christmas,I’m going to go ahead and live with hope. whatever the outcome, I will look forward to the future, even while I enjoy our present.