The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle (Corgi Childrens, 2 July 2015)
An intriguing, beautiful, and haunting contemporary novel that blends very real and serious issues with paranormal elements, THE ACCIDENT SEASON should be more aptly named THE SECRET SEASON. This is a book about secrets – horrible ones, heartbreaking ones – and how we all drown in our own secrets sometimes.
Every year, towards the end of October, Cara and her family become far more accident-prone than usual. They fall and cut themselves and break their bones, and worse – as the deaths of several relatives have shown before. Whenever the accident season rolls around, Cara's mother wraps her children up in layers and tries to make the house as safe as possible with soft rugs and bubble wrap. This year looks to be no different at first – but as Cara starts to plan a Halloween party together with her sister, Alice, her ex-stepbrother, Sam, and her best friend, Bea, things get even stranger than usual. Is this the year they will finally break free of their curse?
THE ACCIDENT SEASON is a very complex book. I had absolutely no idea what to expect going in, and really it's very hard to explain what this book is actually about because it takes the whole book for everything to truly unravel. I will say that it's about family and relationships – about abuse, about trauma, about things you can't see are there but have been there all along. About memories we'd rather hide, but which have shaped our lives nevertheless. It's quite a heavy and dark book, but it deals with the issues it raises in a very nuanced and careful way. It's definitely not the type of book that raises a lot of serious issues and then pretends that everything can be easily fixed. There are some really painful things in this story and the book acknowledges that pain.
I have to say that the first half of the book was pretty slow. Like I said, it takes the whole book for everything to unravel, and for the first half I feel it kind of meanders a little, and you're kind of just wondering where it's all going and it takes a while to get used to the book because it's such a bizarre mix of reality and not-reality – dream-like things, creepy things, magical things. Then in the second half it's like everything starts to come into focus and it all gets sharper and more real even as it also gets more and more fantastical. At times it's like a fever dream or a Bacchic ritual. Yeah, it's a really weird book. But if you stick with it, you'll definitely be rewarded.
Fowley-Doyle's prose is poetic and quiet and understated and I love it so much. It's pretty much the epitome of "show, don't tell". Everything is so subtle, and there's always a bubbling current of meaning under the surface of the words.
Oddly, though I got to know Alice and Sam and Bea and I became very fond of each of them, I felt like I never really got to know Cara, the narrator herself. The story is mostly told in first person through Cara's eyes, and for some reason I'm just not sure I got enough of a sense of her personality. But Alice and Sam and Bea all moved me terribly. They're all so lost and hurt in their own ways, angry and confused. And I loved all their stories and secrets.
I really liked the romance, which I feel takes up just enough space in the story. The tension between Cara and her love interest – whom I won't reveal here because it's kind of a delight to find out as you read – is absolutely perfect, always simmering. Oh god, there's a kiss scene in this book that was so gorgeously written it made me feel light-headed.
I didn't expect this book to have an LGBTQ element, but it did, and it was lovely and complex like everything else in the book. It's not a major thing in the book but it's definitely there. I do wish there had been a little more on that particular thread in the end because I felt that it deserved some sort of closure and it would have added to the ending – but it kind of just trails off, in a way.
All in all, though, this is a brilliant book, superbly original and unique and clever, with some moments that will raise goosebumps on your flesh and some that will make your heart ache.