Author: Annie Cardi
Published: April 22nd, 2014 (Candlewick Press)
Genres/Themes: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Mental Illness, High School
Rating: Three Stars
When your mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.
Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school – and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight – the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?
Cover Thoughts: I love the lighting in the cover, it’s just perfect with the sunset going on. i like how the character is standing in the road looking at an airplane flying away. It really ties into the book really well given Alex’s problems with driver’s ed and her mom’s illness. I really like the title of the novel, like the cover image, the title fits perfectly as well.
First Line: I was sneaking a twenty-dollar bill from Mom’s purse when I saw the empty space where the picture should have been.
First Thoughts: This reminds me of Next To Normal!
A few things drew me into initially reading The Chance You Won’t Return. The first is the beginning of the summary, Alex’s mom believes she is Amelia Earheart. I had to know when this happened, the why and the how. I like to read about mental illness in fiction so I knew I definitely wanted to read The Chance You Won’t Return. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed.
The Chance You Won’t Return is told in a first person narrative from the main character, sixteen year old Alex. I liked the first person point of view, surprisingly, because it helped get into Alex’s head and understand her throughout the book. At the beginning of every chapter, before it begins, there is a quote by Amelia Earhart, as a lover of quotes, I really liked these and felt they enhanced the story.
When we first meet Alex and her family, they seem like the average American family, nice house, two parents, and annoying younger siblings. Alex is a high school student whose biggest problem is initially her lack of driving abilities and crush on a guy named Jim. This is until she finds out her mother thinks she’s Amelia Earheart one day out of the blue and changes her priorities.
Later we learn about Alex’s mom. In a way I liked and dislike how random and Alex’s mom mental illness came on. I would have liked to see her having it for a few years before The Chance You Won’t Return began. I did like seeing Alex’s mom develop the mental illness though.
Alex’s mom ends up having a delusional disorder which the doctors aren’t sure how to treat with medications, so they get switched often. Alex’s mom and her dad end up going to therapy together which I would have liked to see a bit of. The complete Amelia Earhart descension was really interesting, it started with small things like Alex’s mom dressing like her, then looking at maps, later memorizing Amelia’s life, making flight references and eventually planning to make the last flight.
Alex was a very likable character and realistically portrayed. I could relate to her pretty well, she had a fear of driving and thought she could end up mentally ill as well. Alex’s embarrassment and worrying over driver’s ed class were believable. Like Alex, I also have a fear of driving so it was really nice to read about a character who had the same feelings. I felt bad for Alex because of the pressure she had dealing with her mom, she had to come home and watch her, she distanced herself from her friends, and while she grew closer to her mom, she grew further apart as well. Alex got frustrated with her mother too, which made me feel awful for her. I can’t imagine talking to one of my parents and have them call me something else, believing I’m someone else and not knowing who they really were. The way Alex acted was extremely well done.
I liked seeing Alex interact with her mom when she thought she was Amelis Earhart. It was interesting how Alex could tell “Amelia” about her problems and opened up with her. Eventually though everything Alex said, her mother would just turn around and make an Amelia Earhart reference or a flying metaphor.
Alex’s relationship with Jim nicely paced I felt. Alex and Jim had a connection that was real and sweet. I thought their relationship wasn’t rushed and grew naturally. The driving lessons Jim gives Alex were a highlight for me because it was just the two of them. I really loved Jim’s character, he didn’t seem like the perfect male lead who completely in love with the female lead who has no flaws. Alex’s insecurities were really believable when it came to how Jim felt about her.
Alex hides her home life from Jim, afraid he wouldn’t understand. This part really bothered me because I kept wishing she would tell someone about what she was going through. I understood her not wanting people to know though too. I was bothered how she neglected her former friends after meeting Jim. It was really believable in how it was done, Alex pushed her friends away in attempt to hide her mom’s illness from them. I like that it sort of gets tied up at the end though.
Alex’s relationship with her two younger siblings was nice. I liked to read about Alex and Kady’s relationship in particular. They understood what the other was going through a little. All of the characters in The Chance You Won’t Return were well done. Alex’s mom’s episodes as Amelia Earhart were really interesting, as you didn’t always know how she’d react to something. It was realistic seeing Alex and her father walk on eggshells around her. I think it would have been interesting for Alex to have joined a support group for people struggling with mental illness in their families. I liked seeing how Alex’s relationship between each of her parents changed throughout The Chance You Won’t Return. While Alex got along with her father more and her mother less, the opposite happened when her mother was diagnosed.
It’s rare to see teenagers dealing with mental illnesses involving parents, so I loved that Cardi tackled this topic. I felt Cardi treated mental illness with care. While the mental illness may not have been as explored as I wished, she did a good job writing about it. I would have liked to see Alex’s mom’s own thoughts as well as well her dad’s. It would have been interesting seeing how her father dealt with the mental illness.
Final Thoughts: I liked the book. I wish the mental illness had been explained a bit better, but it adds to the mental illness as well in that no one’s really sure how all of them work. I loved *so and so’s* relationship with Jim. It was really believable, built up and it didn’t magically fix everything in her life. Alex’s family’s interactions were nice to read about. I would recommend this book and will be looking forward to Cardi’s future work.