June 08, 2013

Dying to Go Viral

by Sylvia McNicoll
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
251 pp.
Ages 12+
June, 2013

When fourteen-year-old Jade dies as a result of a skateboarding accident, dying becomes the least of her worries.  Nothing will undo that, no matter how much she chastizes herself about her carelessness and stupidity.  Let's face it: skateboarding without a helmet while hanging onto a car just so your eighteen-year-old crush can film it is pretty stupid.  And, like most stupid choices, there are unwanted consequences.  Jade's is her death.  But a lovely welcome from her mother on "the other side" has Jade wishing she hadn't caused so much more grief for her brother Devon and her dad and asking if she could return to the land of the living, just temporarily, to mitigate their guilt in her death.  Jade is given the opportunity to go back one week before her accident, and although she cannot change anything (it's that whole one-small-change-could-affect-all-history scenario), she can set things up so that her dad and brother accept no blame for her death.

But, when she returns just at the moment her best friend Scratch is about to attempt a grind on his skateboard which she knows will result in a broken wrist, Jade cannot help but try to step in.  Of course he still injures himself in a similar manoeuver but shortly after that and with more serious consequences, teaching Jade to heed her mother's advice that she shouldn't make any changes to the larger destiny.
"We can't know whether some change you make will drive destiny down a worse or a better path.  That's what makes reliving this week so dangerous." (pg.37)
So, Jade draws up a list of intentions, mostly centred on getting her dad a girlfriend and backing off on insisting Devon go to university (something he isn't at all interested in but willing to do but then quit), and allowing the three of them to spend more quality time together as a family.  But two things continue to thwart her plans:  Dad's workaholism with respect to his graphics company, and Devon's reluctance to interact with his father, knowing Dad just refuses to see Devon's perspective.  Luckily, her seven-day deadline puts enough impetus behind Jade to propel her into action.

By making casual suggestions, Jade is able to manipulate a few more family dinners, more discussions and appreciation of sunsets and such, even getting Dad to agree to attending the high school orientation BBQ with her and taking a day off work to spend a special day together with Devon and some friends.  Surprisingly, it's the changes in Jade's general outlook that have the greatest impact.  It's as if she can see the big picture while experiencing all the intimate details. Seeing Scratch's injuries as a parent might, watching their elderly cat Oreo as he deals with ravages of aging, appreciating her favourite dish, finally learning how to make fudge - Jade recognizes them for more than just what they appear to be.  Similarly, her one personal wish, to be kissed by Aiden, finally has her recognizing him as someone who looks to her, and everyone else, simply as sources of footage for his film-making.  Sadly, one realization has her proclaiming, even if only to herself,
"Mom, I can't die now.  I just fell in love." (pg. 219)
With that heart-breaking line, Jade seamlessly transforms from the instigator of change to the subject of destiny, good and bad, no longer making things happen, just reacting without deliberating.

I may have been astonished that Sylvia McNicoll would begin Dying to Go Viral with the main character's death but I should have trusted her expertise, the same skills that have made her an award-winning writer.  While I was apprehensive that the storyline would follow that of the play/movie Heaven Can Wait or TV shows like Twice in a Lifetime, I should have trusted Sylvia McNicoll to never write the easy plot, ending with a happily-ever-after.  Her plot has Jade trying to make things right and not always succeeding (hmm, sounds like real life) and learning a lot about herself and others when she takes the time to experience her life.  Her death and her return to her corporeal body allow her to make lemonade out of lemons for herself and others. Her story proves that lemonade can be sour but there is sweetness to be had if you make it right.  Jade did, courtesy of Sylvia McNicoll.

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If you'd like to attend the book's launch and you're around Burlington, Ontario at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 9, 2013, check out her mother-daughter book launch Or you could watch Sylvia McNicoll's virtual book launch below or at http://youtu.be/ZNfM6FpkqPU in which she speaks about her new book, including the originating idea of Dying to Go Viral.

Dying to Go Viral Online Book Launch
Published by Sylvia McNicoll on June 6, 2013 on YouTube.

1 comment:

  1. Now there's a review with just enough in it to make me hunt down the book... Looking forward to it!