Title: The Chance You Won't Return
Author: Annie Cardi
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
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?
When I first heard about Annie Cardi’s The Chance You Won’t Return, I knew it was a book I absolutely needed to read. It sounded so different from the other contemporary stories I had been reading lately. Having now read it, I can say that I was absolutely right: this was a story that was different, and it was one that I absolutely loved.
If the only thing Alex Winchester had to worry about was passing driver’s ed and figuring out what to do about Jim Wiley, the guy she likes, her life would be easy. But lately, something’s been different at home. The more she thinks about it, the more Alex starts to think that something could be seriously wrong with her mom. But Alex would rather not think about. At least not until her mom starts wearing her father’s pants and saying that she’s preparing for her next flight. Now, Alex’s mom is no longer her mom, she’s Amelia Earhart. Alex is scared about what this could mean, of what will happen when her mom leaves for Amelia Earhart’s final flight, the one she doesn’t return from. But at the same time, Alex finds herself being able to talk to Amelia the way she can’t talk to her mom. Late at night, they sit in the kitchen and Alex tells Amelia all about school, her friends, and her budding romance with Jim. In spite of it all, though, all Alex really wants is to get her mom back.
When I first read the synopsis for The Chance You Won’t Return all these months ago, I knew that I wanted to read this book. It just sounded different from what I had been reading at the time. Now all these months late, I was just as excited to have finally etched the point where it was time to read the book. And it was so good, possibly even better than I thought it was going to be. This story was deep and powerful in its own way. From the start, I was able to see that things weren’t perfect in Alex’s life, but at least she had what she needed and she was happy. But things quickly went downhill when her mom became Amelia Earhart. Through it all though there was this constant struggle between happiness and sadness: Alex was going through all these things that should have been making her happy, but because of what was happening with her mom, she couldn’t even enjoy things as simple as her first love. And that kind of resonated with me. I’m not saying I’ve ever been in Alex’s situation, but so often I’ve seen people who are supposed to be kids being forced to grow up and take care of things because one or both parents can’t do it. The Chance You Won’t Return portrays this really realistically, showing Alex struggling both internally and externally with this situation. And when it comes down to it, the reason this felt so realistic was because of the way Alex told this story.
I’ll admit that at first I didn’t really like Alex all that much. She seemed kind of obnoxious. But it didn’t take all that long for me to get over that. When things started going bad with her mom, I could tell that she struggled with it all. I mean, who wouldn’t? I can only begin to imagine what it would feel like to see my mom standing in front of me but have her acting like someone else entirely. And so there was this inner struggled with Alex throughout the book: she wanted her mom back, but at the same time she was able to talk to Amelia in a way she hadn’t been able to talk to her mom in a long time. Seeing Alex’s struggle over the course of the book really tore at the heartstrings. I wanted her to be able to enjoy what was happening to her with Jim, but at the same time she felt guilty being happy because of what was happening at home. Basically, there were a lot of contradictions in Alex, but it just worked and by the end of the book I just really loved her. The one thing I would have made me like The Chance You Won’t Return even more was if I had gotten to know some of the other characters better. I did get to find out a lot about Jim and he was really great for Alex, but beyond that, I can’t really say I knew any of the other characters all that well.
In case it wasn’t obvious, I really loved Annie Cardi’s The Chance You Won’t Return. This was a deeper contemporary story that will really pull at your heartstrings. It’s a story that more than deserves to be read.