When your mom thinks she's Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.
Driver's ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school - and she is. But what's really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad's baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it's easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia's flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight - the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom's delusions, and how far will they take her?
Annie Cardi is the author of The Chance You Won't Return, which was named a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year for 2015. She holds a MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Annie lives near Boston with her family and a portrait of a sea captain.
Some people think YA literature only involves vampires or crumbling future dystopias full of factions and battles to the death. Others dismiss it as being for kids. Most prevalent, perhaps, is the notion that fiction written about teenagers is juvenile; that the characters aren't fully formed yet, and neither are their emotions or experiences. But anyone who remembers that time in their lives knows it couldn't be further from the truth.
"You're just a virgin who can't drive." More than just a punchline from Clueless, these words resonate with anyone who's been a teenager, that universally painful time when you feel like you're on the brink of life, when everything is about to start.
Alex Winchester is on that brink--like many 16-year-olds, she's struggling through driver's ed and wondering how to deal with her crush on the mysterious older boy, Jim Wiley. And her mother thinks she's Amelia Earhart.
Annie Cardi's debut novel does not trivialize Alex's experiences. Her terror behind the wheel is real, as are her frustrations with her friends, her fights with her little sister, her budding feelings for Jim, and her confusion and pain in grappling with her mother's sudden disappearance into mental illness. Alex is one of the most fully realized characters I've read in a novel, YA or otherwise.
Annie is a fellow Fourteenery author and Boston gal, so I was really excited to read The Chance You Won’t Return, a contemporary YA in which Alex Winchester navigates driver's ed, first love, and general high school life while at the same time dealing with her mom’s mental illness (Mom thinks she's Amelia Earhart.) Alex is a real and sympathetic character. I found myself cringing along with her during driver's ed, and getting butterflies as she gets to know the cute guy Jim. My favorite part of the book though, was the portrayal of Alex’s relationship with her delusional mother. Cardi does an excellent job of portraying both the gradual breaddown as well as the emotional toll it takes on both Alex and the rest of her family. An added plus, I learned a lot about a Amelia Earhart! Check this out if you like character driven contemporary YA.
This book is lovely and heartbreaking, with characters that feel incredibly layered and real. It is a take on mental illness that I've never seen before and it was handled with such specificity and care.
When you look back at the memories of the hardest times of your childhood, you tend to be very careful, thinking through every angle of the incidents and accidents that ended up defining who you are. This novel does the same thing, crawling through one girl's anguish over her mother's mental illness, even as life accelerates along its inevitable course, barely braking for even the sharpest turns. Cardi takes a premise - a mom who thinks she's Amelia Earhart - that is, on its surface, extraordinary, and expertly flips it over, showing all the gritty little scenes of real life on the underside. The resulting mosaic feels familiar, where Alex, the teenage protagonist, must accept that her own struggle for meaning takes place not in a world of known roles and accepted fates, but among family and friends who don't know who they are, either. It's the kind of book where you end up thinking less about what happened to its characters, and more about the times you've felt exactly the same as them.
A touching look at how an unusual mental illness affects one teenager's family. High schooler Alex's mom believes she is Amelia Earhart, and meanwhile Alex herself is too terrified to even drive a car. As Alex's mom spirals further into her delusion, Alex must babysit her kid brother and take over more work around the house, all while trying to pass driver's ed and maintain the illusion of normalcy at school. Alex's friendships suffer in a believable way as she hides the truth of her mother's condition from her best friends by diving headfirst into a new relationship with a guy. Through all of this, we learn about the real Amelia Earhart, and there are moments of humor as Alex's mom doles out "advice" based on the Amelia Earhart's life experiences. While Alex is sometimes very prickly and overly self-conscious, it is because of this that she feels so authentically teen that I couldn't can't help but root for her and hope things would turn out for the best.
Disclaimer: Review based on free ARC from the publisher obtained through NetGalley. I picked this book up because I've met the author a few times, and I'm a huge fan of her blog!
If your mother had just one day merely thought that she was Amelia Earhart, what would you do? For Alex Winchester, it was beyond confusing and aggravating. It was undeniable that she was already unsteady with the pent-up emotions that she had dealing with, and not to mention a high school crush, but adding her mother commencing to turn crazy just took the cake. A Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi had a plot that had kept me hooked for days. I feel like Annie took many simple ideas and then just turned them into one amazing plot that eventually turned into a published book. Her characters were well written, but they eventually grew too confusing for me to keep up while I read the book. I eventually found myself reading the book for school rather than for enjoyment. However, it was a great plot, and even with confusing characters, this book was still delightfully entertaining. I just wish that it had characters who were less like a rubix cube and more like a pencil - simple but realistic. I don’t find giving this book three and a half stars too bad, since it deserved it. Well, that’s what I think. Even with it’s amazing story idea that I was hooked on, the complicated characters had nearly ruined everything. I don’t regret reading it, but I won’t ever read it again. I think it was too much for me, and I just wasn’t fully liking it. This book was in the contemporary genre, and that’s where it had fit. I picked this book for the contemporary section originally thinking I would enjoy it, but I ended up actually not liking it. This book may have had complicated characters, but I still enjoyed the plot, and I think people who like the characters more than the plot would like this. I’m just not one of those people, and I never will be.
1. Annie took some pretty stereotypical YA topics-- high school drama, relationships, kids vs parents-- and took them to an entirely new level by throwing some very serious issues into the mix. Every teen girl has ebbs and flows with their mother-- Are we friends? Can I tell her everything? I hate her!-- but a mom with mental health issues? That changes the game. Or does it?
2. I adored Alex and Jim. Can Jim be my boyfriend? I'd love to see a movie of this cute relationship.
3. I'm a big fan of quotes, so the literal structure of the book (Amelia quotes at the beginning of each chapter) worked for me.
4. Such a great plot. Again, throwing in some real issues, like mental health, along with general family and high school drama, makes for a captivating read.
5. Annie Cardi is a phenomenal writer AND person, making this debut novel even more thrilling to devour!
YA is for everyone! I can't wait to see what Annie gives us next!
What a powerful, beautiful book. This story follows sixteen-year-old Alexandra (Alex) over the course of the fall when her mother's mental illness manifests. Cardi does a masterful job of showing how this family crisis effects each of the kids (Alex & her two younger siblings), along with the father. It's heartbreaking, and poignant, and this book will be a life raft for someone going through a similar issue. Alongside the serious issue of mental health, is Alex's school life and her slow build relationship with very wonderful book boy, Jim. He's crush worthy!
Highly recommend this book to contemporary lovers. It's a sweet song to first love and crushing family issues.
(Parental mental health, first "real" love, families, friendships)
I had the pleasure of attending Annie Cardi's launch party and hearing her read from this book and describe her process for writing it. The story deals with a parent's mental illness from the perspective of her teenage daughter. The research the author talked of to ensure the book felt real and handled a difficult subject with grace and respect shows. I love the parallel storyline of the main character's own phobia that serves to contrast so beautifully with what her mother is going through. Superbly written and executed.
I wanted a little more satisfying explanation and resolution to the mother's insistence that she was Amelia Earhart, but all things considered I really enjoyed all the random facts I learned about Earhart as a result, as well as seeing the family struggling to accommodate their delusional matriarch. I may have actually liked the rest of the family (especially the poor father) more than the main character, who was fine until she slept with her boyfriend for no apparent reason other than that his parents were out for "a couple of hours," and I just kept mouthing "wtf" as to why that had to be in this book and why she would take stupid teen pregnancy risks with everything else going on at home.
this is such a sweet and heart-wrenching book. i first read this book around 6 years ago and remember staying up all night to finish this book. i loved it then and I love it now. cardi does such a good job at making it feels like you're there the whole time. the portrayal of watching someone you love deal with mental illness is so real, especially how Alex struggles to not only balance the responsibilities of being the caretaker of the family, but also the looming fear of people finding out and seeing it for all she is. my heart hurts for her.
This story begins by portraying a typical household in suburban America, as teenage Alex is trying to scamper out the door to school by avoiding the annoyance of her younger siblings, and the always charged air between her and her mother. The flow felt very natural, almost mirroring an image of what life was like during my youth. Signs of a well-written story emerged right away as I found myself being able to connect to Alex and the interactions with her family. Slowly we begin to see the signs of something else creeping through the image of Alex's mom. Her blank stares, forgetfulness, and anxiety gain the attention of Alex, her dad, and even her younger siblings, echoing that something isn't quite right.
As Alex navigates the every day life of being a teenage girl, she quickly realizes that her mother is sick, and truly believes herself to be Amelia Earhart. The family is distraught at first, unsure of how to handle this, thinking a trip to the hospital for medication and rest will pull Alex's mom back into focus. But as the aviator maps come out, the refusal of Alex's mom answering to anything but Amelia Earhart, and the constant chatter about upcoming flight plans persist, the family finds themselves holding on to a shell of a woman they so desperately want to come back to them.
My heart broke for Alex as she grappled with the reality of what was happening, even though she never quite understood it herself. She was too embarrassed for the outside world to witness the chaos of what was happening at home, so she pulled away from her friends. But somewhere in the fog, she found an anchor to hold her still. Jim walked into her life when she needed it most, calming her and allowing her to escape to a different reality, even though he never knew the truth about what was happening at home. Their interactions cast a warm glow on a story that held so much grief.
Every so often I found myself having an emotional reaction to different scenes between Alex and her mother. It was difficult to get past the moments when Alex so desperately wanted, needed, her mother, yet only received the ghost of some historical figure from year's past. The struggles this family endured, trying to cope with the illness of Alex's mother, really tugged at my heart page after page. I wanted so badly to reach through the pages and comfort them. I appreciated the fact that Annie Cardi did not wrap this story up with a pretty little bow, giving the family, Alex especially, a happily ever after. The conclusion felt genuine, even if a bit sad, with the potential of hope still ahead.
This debut novel is both compelling and thoughtful, rich with emotion, yet authentic in its teenage voice. The personal connections I felt to this story will not be forgotten, as this book has now secured its place within the confines of my literary heart.
[This review was originally posted here --> GReads!
The Chance You Won't Return flows like a real-life tale with realistic dialogue, a multi-faceted protagonist, and subtly descriptive writing that makes readers feel as if they are a part of the setting. Alex's story, from her driving struggles to her first romance, is tangibly relatable. And, despite its abnormalities, the family aspect is the most powerful and lifelike of all.
At first, Alex's dynamic with her parents and siblings appears to be the one kind I cannot stand—the inexplicably strained one. The space between the protagonist and her parents threatens to snap with tension, and sibling frustrations bubble up. However, Cardi writes the family scenes in a way that does not blame all of the problems on stereotypical teenage irritability or angst; instead she simply portrays a family under the duress of multiple misfortunes. Even better, Alex's less-than-ideal relationship with her mother creates a fantastic contrast with the unexpected one that develops with Amelia.
Just as the summary says, Alex finds it easier to talk to Amelia than to her mother, and I loved watching their relationship develop. While everything else is falling apart, their connection is finally coming together, an occurrence that adds complications to the story. Although the rest of the family is determined to cure the delusions, Alex seems more accepting of them, throwing a twist into an otherwise direct goal. Readers will appreciate this fascinating and refreshing take on the mother's mental disorder—a viewpoint that does not only find faults, but also finds opportunities for growth.
This new-found bond emphasizes one constant threat—the chance that Alex's mother may leave one day and, just like Amelia Earhart, never return. Cardi chose the perfect person when selecting a figure for the mother's delusions because the mysteries surrounding the aviatrix's disappearance lend their suspense to The Chance You Won't Return. After watching Alex and Amelia grow closer and confide in each other, readers will want nothing less than to see the mother vanish.
As the mother-daughter relationship grows, readers will cheer for Alex in her family relationships as well as every other aspect of her life. Cardi's writing is so lifelike that not doing so would be nearly impossible; by the end of the novel, the characters and their conflicts become real. After connecting with the cast and falling into the vivid setting of The Chance You Won't Return, I can guarantee that I will return for more of Cardi's vibrant and emotional stories.
Personal Response: I thought this book was weird at first but then I started to like it because of Jim and Alex's’ relationship. With them in the book it made me actually want to read the whole book. Throughout the book I thought and still think Alex’s mother is crazy because she thinks she is Amelia Earhart. During the whole time I was reading the book I thought Alex's’ mom had alzheimer's but the whole time she had a delusional disorder.
Plot Summary: The book starts out with Alex and her mom arguing like any other teenager and mother would. Everything was normal for a while until Alex's’ family noticed their mom was not acting right. Eventually Alex’s mom thought she was Amelia Earhart and next thing you know she is planning her flight trips left and right. Throughout the book Alex has a paralyzing fear of driving and a constant worry that people will find out her mom thinks she thinks she is Amelia Earhart. Alex’s fear of driving has to deal with a lot because she meets her boyfriend this way. Jim Wiley ( Alex’s boyfriend) helps Alex learn to drive and ends up being a great help for her and she got the chance to retake her test so she would not fail. The book deals with a normal teenagers daily struggles and what life has to other by throwing curve balls.
Characterization: Alex is the main character of the story. Alex is basically like any other teenager. She worries about her grades, boys, her family, etc. With her mom being sick from having a delusional disorder, Alex has to help a lot around the house more. This included her doing laundry, making sure her brother and sister got to school safe, and making food for the family. Thoughtout the book Alex works hard by trying to make sure her family is safe and all taken care of.
Recommendation: I would recommend this book to anybody ages twelve and up. I think teenagers especially could relate to this story. Teenagers most importantly because the main character is a teenager and the book talks about daily struggles and life struggles.
High school junior Alex Winchester is failing Driver's Ed, but that's the least of her worries. At home, her mother thinks she's Amelia Earhart, dresses as the aviatrix, calls her husband George (Putnam, Earhart's husband) and is planning her next flight. Now Alex has more pressure at home than ever before, caring for her younger siblings, making sure her mother doesn't wander. With the Amelia delusion getting stronger, Alex worries if her mother will ever return.
I enjoyed Alex as a character, but had a hard time connecting with her on a personal level when she pushed away her friends, was secretive and closed off. She wanted to be a regular kid, but wanted to help her mother too. She was easy to root for, because of her positive and negative qualities. While I liked her love interest Jim, I thought he was a little too perfect and patient. The father and siblings felt realistic. Alex's classmates seemed to blend together.
I've had a lifelong love of Amelia Earhart and I'm a psychologist, so naturally THE CHANCE YOU WON'T RETURN seemed right up my alley. Debut writer Annie Cardi did a great job researching Earhart and weaving her life story into the character. Her research on mental health seemed fine, but Cardi didn't devote much time to the specifics. The writing was adequate, but nothing special. I don't think I highlighted any well written sentences or paragraphs. The story held my interest, but didn't grip me. I was fine to take a break or put my kindle down.
I hated the ending, or should I say non-ending. Plots weren't wrapped up, everything just stopped. I would have preferred any ending rather than nothing.
Themes: mental health, family life, first love, growing up
“The Chance You Won’t Return” is a pretty good book. I thought it was good, but I also thought it could be strange at times. It seemed a little weird how Alex’s mother randomly thought she was Amelia Earhart. I thought it was a little creepy. The book, however, was still enjoyable to read. It kept my attention very well, and throughout the book I found myself wanting to read on to see if her mother recovered.
Alex was living a completely average life with her parents and little siblings until her mother started to think she was Amelia Earhart. Alex had to help take care of her while trying to hide her mother’s illness from all of her friends. Alex also met a boy she liked in this story. He helped her take her mind off of everything that was going on at home. At first, she tried to keep her mother’s illness a secret from him. She eventually told him after he was angry with her for never bringing him to her house to meet her family. Alex spent the majority of the book taking care of her mother who does everything Amelia Earhart would do. She even dressed like her and treated Alex and the rest of her family as if they were Amelia Earhart’s family members. At the end of this story, Alex’s mom went to a treatment center and slowly recovered until she got better.
I would recommend this book to anybody from middle school and up. I think high school students would be able to relate to this story very well because the characters in this story are of that age group. I would not recommend this book to anybody younger than twelve because they would not be able to relate to the story very well.
I wanted to like this story more, but I found myself annoyed by the way the main character kept bringing everything back to her mother's mental illness. I also thought that her mom's mental illness was pretty unbelievable and out-there. I just didn't buy that her mom would suddenly snap into such a perfect and all-consuming delusion.
Alex's insecurity also really bugged me. The fact that all the tension in the story centered around fears that her friends and a guy who clearly really likes her will somehow reject her because of her mom was just irritating. I would have bought it more if she felt unable to talk about it rather than intentionally lying because she was scared that everyone she cared about would make fun of her. And then there was the "perfect" guy who appears out of nowhere, a guy who is happy just cuddling on the couch with her sometimes, but who she doesn't believe wants to be her "boyfriend," even after his dad calls her his girlfriend in front of both of them. I just wanted to scream at her.
For a lot of the book, I was skimming and quickly flipping pages, trying to stay interested enough to just finish the thing.
I think readers who have some experience with mental illness might like this book, but on the whole, it was not intense enough or powerful enough to go on my buy-for-my-library list.
This book may work for you. If the synopsis sounds like something you'd enjoy, go ahead and give it a chance. It just didn't work for me.
I feel like this book is just a missed opportunity. I thought it would be about dealing with a mom going through a mental illness - see the effects on the family, going through the system of support and counseling and how isolating it can all feel.
Instead, it felt like a story about Alex and her juggling first love, embarrassing highschool moments and coming of age. The mental illness seems like a sub-note or side-plot, which seems so wrong - because it really could have been a great story.
I don't think a lot of YA broaches the mental illness topic - especially when it's in the parents and isn't harmful. This wasn't depression, hoarding or manic depressive nor was it addiction. Her mom literally thought she was Amelia Earhart.
I'm sad the story didn't broach much of the support you can find when a family struggles with mental illness. There really are support groups, group counseling, school counselors - all kind of community support that would have helped them.
I think if I'd gone into this with different expectations, I would have enjoyed it more.
I really enjoyed this story. I especially loved Alex. Alex is an incredibly realistic heroine. She is selfish and embarrassed about her mom's mental problems and close to her brother and sister but also resentful at having to spend so much time taking care of them. I love that she's a regular teenager and not a perfect person.
And I love that she tries so hard to spend time with her mom and even plays along with everything, as much as she can. She fails a lot, but she keeps trying. (And I love that, as someone who also fails a lot and also keeps trying.)
I found everything about this book intriguing. There is a history of depression in my family, but I've never had any experience with delusions and things like this. I love how it's presented very matter-of-factly. I mean yes, Alex is embarrassed by her mom, but it's never like a freak show, for lack of a better term.
The story and plots are great. Alex has a new boyfriend, she trying to get her driving license, and has a mom who had a mental breakdown.
The part where the author missed is her mom's breakdown. The mom thinks she is Amelia Earhart. Okay, great idea. New to me. But the execution lacked. This was a blown opportunity to do a little research and really come up with some interesting facts about Amelia that would add to the story about Alex.
Now realizing this is the author's first book, I definitely think she is off to a good start but she missed the grand slam on this one. Therefore, it was just an okay book.
I so enjoyed Annie Cardi's "The Chance You Won't Return." Cardi writes Alex in a wholly believable way, and her relationship with her mom, and how Alex handles her mom's illness, is written delicately and authentically as well. Loved how the author didn't wrap it all neatly in the end. A well-written, engaging debut!
A beautifully written debut novel with compelling and memorable characters. The novel tells a story of a family dealing with mental illness, a story as unique as Amelia Earhart herself. Never cliche, always lovely, and with moments of heartbreak and others of levity; an honest-to-goodness gem.
Alex just wanted her mother to remember who she was. But her mom had something happen to her and she doesn't know who she is, but thinks she is Amelia Earhart. So Alex has to try to get her mother to remember who she is. Then everything she doesn't expect happens to her.
Overall, this book was fine. The premise was entertaining, the plot moved at a good clip, and a couple different plot lines were juggled fairly well. This still wasn’t a good book, in my opinion.
I had a genuine dislike for the main character. I’ve never been the type to love to hate characters but I don’t think she’d even qualify for that - she was just straight-up dislikable. She was constantly thinking about herself, and whenever she did think of others, it was only ever her siblings, and it would be presented in a throwaway line like, “Wow, this must be hard for them, too.” Then she would instantly ruin it by thinking something like, “I’m glad they have to suffer with me so I’m not alone.” She never apologized for using her boyfriend in the middle of the night while they were in a fight - and sure, his understanding was kind, but it was still kind of terrible of her, broken mom or no.
The love story had no chemistry or real backing. “Unpopular girl meets cute, popular guy, they drink, they fall in love, happily ever after.” Overplayed and boring.
The other main issue that I had with this book was the drinking and drug usage. (For clarification, drugs were only referenced, never specifically used.) Yes, drinking and drug usage is a part of the lives of many American teenagers - but this book only once tried to portray it as a bad thing, during the love interest’s backstory. Even then, it wasn’t really explored in its entirety, and even after drinking made him drive through a HOUSE, he didn’t stop. Then in the book he drinks and the main character gets concerned because alcohol messes with his seizure medication. And nothing happens because of it! It’s a clear conflict point and yet he’s just allowed to drink underage without consequences. I’m fine with this sort of stuff being portrayed in books, and in fact would encourage it - as a negative thing. Not as this, “Oh, everyone does it and it doesn’t matter” sort of thing. I’ve known kids who drink and do drugs and it’s not pretty. One girl looked like a lifelong meth addict before she hit seventeen. A boy in my math class dropped out of his extracurricular activities so he could use the fee money to buy drugs. A boy got arrested at a school-sponsored party because he was drinking by himself in the woods. A boy got a girl drunk at a party and raped her. I am sick and tired of alcohol and drug usage being so casual in books without consequences kicking in later, and honestly, as strange as it may seem, it ruined the book for me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Emotionally powerful! It drew me right from the beginning. I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants! After awhile the humor was much more subtle but still there despite the challenging situation that darkened the story. Some of her comments slide between witty and snarky. I could really appreciate her attitude having had to deal with a delusional family member. Do you laugh or do you cry? Do you tell everyone what is going on or do you pretend there isn't a problem because you hope the person will get back to their 'real' self? That was one of the great things about the book--it is sad but neither Alex nor the reader wallows in hopelessness and tears.
I liked Alex but would have liked the story better if Jim wasn't described as cute so much. The best thing about Jim was that he knew how to be kind--something you don't always see in the portrayal of teenage boys that are hormonally driven. It was refreshing that most of the intimate relationship described kissing and everything else was implied. An okay book for a mature middle-schooler.
The way that the authored portrayed each family members ability to cope with the mother's mental illness was interesting and contrasted well with Alex's behavior: she went along with the Amelia Earhart delusion just to deal with her mom most of the time. A psychiatrist can tell you what is the 'right' thing to do but most of the time you just have to wing it!
The ending was satisfying for me because it didn't wrap up too neatly. Those of us with mental illness in our families know that life doesn't go in a straight line. You know the only thing you can do is hope for the best but keep looking out for more bumps in the road.
The story, The Chance You Won’t Return, by Annie Cardi, takes you through the journey of Alex Winchester as you she tries to balance her stressful life in high school and at home. One day, her mom ends up needing to go to the hospital, and they find out that she is diagnosed with a rare condition in which she thinks she is another person, and that person happens to be Amelia Earhart. Alex needs to balance this, plus the fact that she needs to take care of her younger siblings at home, with her life at school.
I love how the book takes you through many aspects of her life. Something I specifically liked was how the author portrayed her struggles with driving. Her driving seems terrible at first, but with the help of a friend, it improves as the story goes on. I also liked how she goes through so many emotions, which include love, anger, and doubt, as the story went on. The only real criticism I found was how the book ended, as the ending felt a little incomplete. Overall, I would rate the book at around four out of five stars.