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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up–Unwilling to work as a CIT for the summer before 10th grade, Danielle instead takes a babysitting job. Five-year-old Humphrey is a fantastic kid, and with him she can let go of the fears of being a leader that kept her from camp. The unlikely pair form a strong and genuine, if unconventional, friendship–something very different from the proximity-based friendships Danielle has with her peers. Everything comes to a sudden halt when Humphrey chases a football into the path of an oncoming car. His death weighs heavily on Danielle, who feels guilty for the accident and alone in her grief: How can she explain to anyone what the child meant to her? Meanwhile, the town is using the accident to push for safety improvements along the road and legislation against undocumented immigrants like the family in the car that struck the boy. Siblings, parents, and friends are all portrayed as real people struggling with their own issues, and Danielle finally begins to understand her complex relationships with the people around her. Contrasting her pain with the town's political agendas emphasizes that the rest of the world doesn't stop because her world did. The discussion of these real issues is deftly woven into the story, never overshadowing the protagonist's journey toward healing. A budding romance rounds out the plot. This book is sure to be a hit among teens seeking a substantive drama.–Brandy Danner, Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Danielle wasn’t sure she would make a great babysitter, but five-year-old Humphrey was such a cool little kid. Then, after a successful session at the playground, where Danielle teaches Humphrey to throw a football in a perfect spiral, the ball bounces into the street, and Humphrey takes off after it. She remembers seeing a teal-blue minivan and vaguely wondering if that was the car that hit Humphrey, but all details are lost in a haze of grief when Danielle learns Humphrey has been killed. Her feeling of guilt chokes back her words. The community, however, seizes on the accident to promote two political causes: making the road safer and cracking down on illegal immigrants (the driver of the blue minivan turns out to be undocumented). The theme of immigration issues reaches into the plotline from several angles, perhaps stretching credulity. But it does inform readers about the plight of illegal immigrants and, more importantly, their children. Grades 8-11. --Diane Colson

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Childrens (July 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802734413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802734419
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #742,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I write books -- fiction, nonfiction, and poetry -- for people of all different ages, and especially for young people. Before starting my writing career, I was a newspaper editor; before that, I was a lawyer with a Washington, D.C. law firm. I have a bachelor's degree in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, and a law degree and master's degree in world politics from the University of Michigan. I live in Maryland and spend as much time as I can kayaking and otherwise messing around in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Customer Reviews

I read somewhere that this book was for fans of Jodi Picoult.
Kacey M. Vanderkarr
This is a beautiful book with wonderful characters, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a well-paced story that's rich with love, sensitivity, humor, and honesty.
Her characters, Danielle and Humphrey, are so real that you can't help but feel what they feel.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hannah @ The Irish Banana Review on July 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Heartbreaking, poignant, and utterly sweet, Imperfect Spiral is a quiet book that showcases the subtle awesomeness of debut author Debbie Levy. I was hooked from beginning to end as I wandered down the path with Danielle as she struggled to grow up and find herself in the face of an unthinkable tragedy and the fallout that resulted.

As someone who frequently babysat neighborhood kids growing up, what happens to Danielle is easily worst-case scenario. I think that's why I was able to so quickly identify with her--what she went through is something I could have easily experienced. There was something so beautifully raw and exposed about the way Levy writes Danielle in the beginning stages of the book, which picks up after the accident. There's a numbness and confusion that is so heartbreaking and made me want to protect this fictional girl that could have been my best friend growing up.

The added layer of dealing with illegal immigration was something I was admittedly worried about. Thankfully I never once felt like Levy was preaching in support of one side or the other. But she also did a phenomenal job of showing that there is more than one side to every story. Imperfect Spiral is a book that made me think and really evaluate some of my beliefs.

Yes, Imperfect Spiral is an emotion book. I was exhausted by the end of it because it's very heavy, but I also feel like it's an extremely important book. There's a lot going on--the accident, illegal aliens, romance, coming of age ... Maybe, at times, there was even a little too much going on, but I can honestly say this is a book I wouldn't want to miss for the world. It's a discussion sparking book that I will love sharing with friends. As soon as I finished this book, I immediately passed it on. Get your own copy and be ready to share.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Aeicha @ Word Spelunking on July 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Every once in awhile a book comes along that captures me so completely and moves me in such surprising ways. A book that still hasn't left my thoughts even days or weeks after it's been read. Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy is one of those books. This isn't a perfect book (do those even exist?!), but I love it for everything it is and everything it isn't.

Fourteen year old Danielle Snyder spends the summer before high school as a babysitter for five year old Humphrey. Danielle and Humphrey make a splendid pair with their oddball personalities and out of the box thinking. And when Humphrey is tragically killed by an illegal immigrant Danielle finds herself in the middle of a battle and campaign she wants no part of; she merely wants to mourn the little boy she's come to love.

Imperfect Spiral is a beautiful and authentic story about unlikely love and friendship, family, compassion, and standing up for what you believe in. Highly relevant, rich in tangible emotion, and possessing two of the best written characters I've met in a long time, this is an utterly addicting story.

Levy weaves several heavy themes and topics throughout Imperfect Spiral- grief, guilt, tolerance, illegal/legal immigration- and she does so with such thought-provoking honesty and authenticity, and without any sense of being preached at. The topic of immigration, both illegal and legal, plays an integral role in the story, and I appreciate the way that the author explores all sides of the argument and, instead of telling readers what they should think about the topic, she merely encourages thought and further exploration. But, the heart of this story lies with Danielle and Humphrey, the profound bond they forge, and Danielle's immense grief and guilt over his death.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Book 'Em Blog on July 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This was a hard novel to read--and now to review.

Like Humphrey, I was hit by a car when I was five years old. While I was hospitalized and had a cast from my chest to my toes, I was lucky.

Humphrey was not, and reading about him and his relationship with Danielle, heart.

I loved this book. I am going to go ahead and say that this is one of my favorite reads of 2013. I think one of the reasons is the connection I feel to it, but I could not put this down (nor the towel I used to wipe my eyes while I read).

I think that for those of us who grew up babysitting, you too will feel all the feelings while reading this novel.

Go ahead, get the towel ready now.

This book made me feel all kinds of feelings.

As the novel opens, Humphrey has been lost to a terrible accident while walking home with his babysitter Danielle. And while this should have been a novel about how to deal and recover, it turned into something else toward the end.

While some may have a problem with that, I did not. Here's why: when a tragedy happens, people are always looking beyond the tragedy itself for self gain (whether personally, professionally, politically, etc.). That is what happens in the novel. We shift from the loss of Humphrey to why we need stronger immigration laws.

I felt that this shift mirrored a truth in our society--and why we need to keep our eye on the true victim. In this case, it isn't America with illegal immigrants; it is five-year-old Humphrey. He is getting lost in the accident, and Danielle works to make sure his not forgotten and overshadowed.

Oh Danielle, talk about a heart-breaker. This character absolutely melts my heart. She has a good head on her shoulders, but she feels lost.
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