I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Published by Kathy Dawson Books on August 18th 2015
Pages: 304 •Goodreads
For fans of We Were Liars and How I Live Now comes a haunting, sexy, magically realistic debut about a family caught between a violent history, a taboo romance, and the mysteries lurking in their own backyard.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.
To the river beneath us where we sink our souls,
To the bruises and secrets, to the ghosts in the ceiling,
One more drink for the watery road.
If there’s one word to describe The Accident Season, it’s atmospheric. Set in Ireland, it follows a family that suffers unfortunate events (everything from scrapes and bruises to deaths) every October, despite their best precautions. It’s a refreshingly unique premise for a YA novel, and while I was anticipating horror, what the storyline evokes instead is a unique sort of whimsical eeriness.
The novel starts out right away with a disturbing revelation: Cara, the protagonist, realizes that a quiet, nondescript classmate appears in the periphery of every photo she’s taken over a period of years. This revelation births an unsettling feeling in readers that grows stronger throughout the novel, burning stronger as other events come into play: changelings only Cara can see, rag dolls abandoned in forests, collapsing bridges, and masquerades set in decrepit mansions. The story hangs thick with the threat of things going wrong, and creates a sense of anxiety as to what the next accident will be: a scraped knee or a deadly car crash?
I’ll admit that the story started off a bit slow for me, and while I found the characters charming, I also often questioned some of their decisions for being reckless during the accident season (such as trespassing on abandoned property, going for late night walks through the woods, etc). While the character development is quiet and subtle, it’s an interesting study in seeing how a family has become so en-wrapped and defined by its’ collective tragedy, and how directly or indirectly they themselves may be contributing to the accidents. There’s a sense of mystery throughout the book about how such an Accident Season came to exist: Magic? Paranormal activity? Sheer bad luck? I was satisfied by the explanation at the end of the book, but it managed to provide closure without explaining away all of its mystery with sensible logic. While this novel stands in the YA Contemporary genre, there’s an element of magical realism that exists hovers above the plot, just out of reach, throughout the entire story that makes you feel unsettled and off-balance.
The story also explores the damaging effect of secrets and the cathartic freedom that comes from releasing them, even anonymously. Elsie, the mysterious student in all of Cara’s pictures, runs a “secrets booth” at their high school, comprised of an old fashioned type-writer, a wooden box, and a privacy screen. Students line up at the secrets booth to privately and anonymously types out their darkest secrets, slipping them into the box, and at the end of the year they are displayed in an art installation throughout the hallways of the school. The secrets booth reminded me of the PostSecret craze, and the thrill of anonymous confession that’s so rare in this day in age when so much about everyone’s lives are plastered across social media. The story did a fantastic job showing the duality of secrets, and how they can hurt and heal depending on how they are used.
While the story started slowly for me, the last third of the book entranced me with it’s Black Cat and Whiskey Moon Halloween Masquerade. The juxtaposed genres of contemporary, magical realism, and a hint of paranormal comes crashing together at the party Cara, her siblings and her best friend through at an abandoned, decrepit mansion to test the last few hours of the Accident Season. Secrets unravel, relationships are made and broken, characters are kissing the wrong and right people, and I just felt like I was THERE, caught up in the music and mystery and rowdy temptation to dance with the ghosts lingering on the ceiling. It was a whirl-wind of a book ending, but the imagery of the party and the revelations made in the aftermath were stunning.
Overall: While a bit slow to start, The Accident Season is a novel that blurs the boundaries of contemporary and paranormal in a compelling way, following a thread of unease through a dark storyline with elements of whimsy that keep it from being too heavy. The writing is wonderfully atmospheric, and the imagery often makes up for a few plot holes. By the end of the story, Fowley Doyle will have you questioning how many accidents are the cause of fate, and how many are the indirect effects of human motivations and sinister desires. While it didn’t amaze me (I was able to infer a major plot point early on in the novel), The Accident Season is a promising debut from an author with a unique writing style.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Goodreads Challenge