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This was perfect plane reading
for my trip from the UK to the US.
I first heard about The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle at the Young Adult Literature Convention where there was a booth dedicated to it. The booth's "secrets box" caught my eye, but I still wouldn’t have ended up reading it if my husband hadn’t been persuaded by a fellow author to buy it. He in turn told me to read it because “it gets really gothic at the end.”

The Accident Season is told in first person from the point of view of Cara, a girl whose family seems cursed to suffer from an unnatural amount of physical accidents every October. Each year—led by her mother—Cara, her older sister Alice, and her ex-stepbrother Sam (it’s complicated) hunker down and expect the worst. They do everything they can to minimize the opportunities for accidents to overtake them, yet every October they seem unable to avoid tragedy. This year, Cara begins to notice a strange pattern in her life; every single one of her photographs seem to feature the same childhood friend, but nobody can remember that friend being around or even details about the girl such as what class she was in or what her last name was. As Cara investigates, along with Sam and her best friend Bea, the elusive friend becomes more mysterious and ghostlike. Meanwhile as October draws to a close and the accidents seem to increase, Alice seems to be wrapped up in problems of her own. The layers of secrets around Cara are growing, and she finds it harder and harder to discern reality. Gradually the web of secrets, fears, and lies begins to unravel until all is made clear.

The Accident Season is a novel not only about secrets, but about denial and the processing of truth through fiction. Cara is only able to acknowledge the truth she already knows through her gradually increasing visions of a fantasy where she, Alice, Sam and Bea are each represented by a “changeling.” As Cara begins to realize who the threats are in her life, she sees visions of the changelings facing those enemies, and through that finds power to take action herself. She finds that her ghosts can only be put to rest if she is brave enough to face them.

Fowley-Doyle, I think, leaves it a bit ambiguous just how much of the story is supernatural. But I really like that in a story. I always lean toward it being completely constructed—not because I don’t like the idea of fantasy being real, but because I find it so much more compelling to think about the human mind’s ability to find weird ways to cope with reality. It reminded me a bit of Jonathan Stroud’s The Leap as there is some ambiguity as to whether there is actually a fantastical element to the things that happened, or whether the main character is imagining the fantasy in order to cope with a traumatic reality.

 As per my husband's recommendation, the book does have some satisfyingly gothic elements wound throughout its modern-day setting. Parts of the atmosphere reminded me of Doll Bones by Holly Black, but for an older audience. I really enjoyed reading this book and though the action lags a bit toward the middle, the ending resolution is very good.

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