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Book Review: Accidental by Alex Richards

Accidental

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Bloomsbury, for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Contemporary

Plot: Johanna has had more than enough trauma in her life. She lost her mom in a car accident, and her father went AWOL when Johanna was just a baby. At sixteen, life is steady, boring . . . maybe even stifling, since she’s being raised by her grandparents who never talk about their daughter, her mother Mandy.

Then he comes back: Robert Newsome, Johanna’s father, bringing memories and pictures of Mandy. But that’s not all he shares. A tragic car accident didn’t kill Mandy–it was Johanna, who at two years old, accidentally shot her own mother with an unsecured gun.

Now Johanna has to sort through it all–the return of her absentee father, her grandparents’ lies, her part in her mother’s death. But no one, neither her loyal best friends nor her sweet new boyfriend, can help her forgive them. Most of all, can she ever find a way to forgive herself?

In a searing, ultimately uplifting story, debut author Alex Richards tackles a different side of the important issue that has galvanized teens across our country.

Opinion:

“๐‘จ๐’๐’ ๐’˜๐’†๐’†๐’Œ ๐’๐’๐’๐’ˆ, ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐‘จ๐’Ž๐’†๐’“๐’Š๐’„๐’‚๐’ ๐’‡๐’๐’‚๐’ˆ ๐’๐’ ๐’๐’–๐’“ ๐’‡๐’“๐’๐’๐’• ๐’๐’‚๐’˜๐’ ๐’‡๐’๐’‚๐’‘๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ๐’“๐’Š๐’๐’š ๐’Š๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’˜๐’Š๐’๐’…. ๐‘พ๐’†๐’Š๐’“๐’… ๐’‰๐’๐’˜ ๐‘ฐ ๐’๐’†๐’—๐’†๐’“ ๐’–๐’”๐’†๐’… ๐’•๐’ ๐’๐’๐’•๐’Š๐’„๐’† ๐’Š๐’• ๐’–๐’‘ ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’“๐’† – ๐’•๐’‰๐’Š๐’” ๐’‰๐’–๐’ˆ๐’†, ๐’…๐’–๐’“๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’๐’† ๐’‚๐’… ๐’‡๐’๐’“ ๐’๐’–๐’“ ๐’‘๐’‚๐’•๐’“๐’Š๐’๐’•๐’Š๐’”๐’Ž.
.
๐‘ฐ ๐’˜๐’๐’๐’…๐’†๐’“ ๐’Š๐’‡ ๐’Ž๐’š ๐’ˆ๐’“๐’‚๐’๐’…๐’‘๐’‚๐’“๐’†๐’๐’•๐’” ๐’๐’˜๐’๐’†๐’… ๐’•๐’‰๐’‚๐’• ๐’‡๐’๐’‚๐’ˆ ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’‡๐’๐’“๐’† ๐’๐’“ ๐’‚๐’‡๐’•๐’†๐’“ ๐‘ฐ ๐’”๐’‰๐’๐’• ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’Œ๐’Š๐’๐’๐’†๐’… ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’Š๐’“ ๐’…๐’‚๐’–๐’ˆ๐’‰๐’•๐’†๐’“.”

“๐‘ฉ๐’๐’Š๐’๐’Œ ๐’•๐’˜๐’Š๐’„๐’† ๐’Š๐’‡ ๐’š๐’๐’–’๐’“๐’† ๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’‘๐’‘๐’†๐’… ๐’Š๐’ ๐’‚ ๐’‰๐’๐’”๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’† ๐’”๐’Š๐’•๐’–๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’.”

Johanna has been raised by her grandparents for most of her life, due to her father bailing and her mother dying in a car accident when she was almost three. But at sixteen, Johanna feels like she’s beginning to forget her mother entirely and it doesn’t help that her grandparents refuse to talk about her. But life for Johanna isn’t so bad. She has two amazing best friends who are more like sisters, and the new kid at school seems to have his eye on her. But when Jo gets a letter in the mail from her father who is wishing to reconnect, her seemingly ordinary life implodes. With her father’s sudden reappearance in her life comes the truth of her childhood and the real cause of death of her mother. Because it wasn’t a car accident that killed Johanna’s mother…

…it was her.

Deep breath, baby angels.

It’s a heavy hitter.

“๐‘พ๐’๐’“๐’…๐’” ๐’‡๐’๐’š ๐’๐’–๐’• ๐’๐’‡ ๐‘น๐’๐’ƒ๐’†๐’“๐’•’๐’” ๐’Ž๐’๐’–๐’•๐’‰ ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’ƒ๐’๐’ƒ ๐’‚๐’“๐’๐’–๐’๐’… ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’“๐’๐’๐’Ž ๐’๐’Š๐’Œ๐’† ๐’ƒ๐’‚๐’•๐’”. ๐‘ป๐’‰๐’†๐’š’๐’“๐’† ๐’‡๐’‚๐’Ž๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’‚๐’“ ๐’˜๐’๐’“๐’…๐’” – ๐’…๐’Š๐’„๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’๐’‚๐’“๐’š ๐’˜๐’๐’“๐’…๐’” – ๐’ƒ๐’–๐’• ๐’๐’๐’๐’† ๐’๐’‡ ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’Ž ๐’‡๐’Š๐’• ๐’•๐’๐’ˆ๐’†๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’“ ๐’Š๐’ ๐’‚ ๐’˜๐’‚๐’š ๐‘ฐ ๐’„๐’‚๐’ ๐’–๐’๐’…๐’†๐’“๐’”๐’•๐’‚๐’๐’…. ๐‘ฐ๐’•’๐’” ๐’‚ ๐’”๐’•๐’๐’“๐’š ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’๐’๐’… ๐’•๐’ ๐’Ž๐’† ๐’Š๐’ ๐’‚ ๐’๐’Š๐’ˆ๐’‰๐’•๐’Ž๐’‚๐’“๐’† ๐’๐’“ ๐’”๐’๐’Ž๐’† ๐’‘๐’‚๐’“๐’‚๐’๐’๐’†๐’ ๐’–๐’๐’Š๐’—๐’†๐’“๐’”๐’†, ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’Ž๐’š ๐’—๐’Š๐’”๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’”๐’†๐’†๐’Ž๐’” ๐’•๐’ ๐’ƒ๐’๐’‚๐’„๐’Œ๐’†๐’ ๐’Š๐’ ๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’‘๐’๐’๐’”๐’†.”

The gun control topic is a controversial one, and with this being a book that centers around gun violence, be prepared for moments that may differ from your personal opinions. But for those of you who are weary that this will be a “preachy” YA Contemporary, rest assured that both sides to this debate are represented and it’s dealt with in a delicate manner that doesn’t take away from what this story really is – a coming-of-age tale about trauma, forgiveness, growth and self-love.

Accidental is an emotional and surreal story that centers on how common it is for children to come across easily accessible guns in their homes. At two and a half, while her father was out of town, Johanna and her mother were taking a nap when Johanna awakens and begins to wander. She finds her father’s gun under her parent’s bed, and ends up pulling the trigger and shooting her mother in the chest – killing her.

But upon the reader meeting Johanna, we learn that she has no idea of what took place when she was a toddler. At sixteen, Jo is a typical teenager living in Santa Fe and going to a prestigious high school. She has two quirky, spirited and vivacious best friends and she spends her time sewing her own clothes and slinging sassy comebacks at idiotic guys in her class. She’s a lively and charismatic character from the start, describing the pains of living with her very religious grandparents, but also expressing a deep love for them both.

But the ease in Jo’s life quickly changes with the reemergence of her estranged father, and his confession of Jo and Amanda’s truth.

“๐‘ป๐’˜๐’ ๐’„๐’š๐’Ž๐’ƒ๐’‚๐’๐’”, ๐’„๐’“๐’‚๐’”๐’‰๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’๐’ ๐’“๐’†๐’‘๐’†๐’‚๐’• –

๐‘ญ๐‘จ๐‘ป๐‘ฏ๐‘ฌ๐‘น!
๐‘ญ๐‘จ๐‘ป๐‘ฏ๐‘ฌ๐‘น!
๐‘ญ๐‘จ๐‘ป๐‘ฏ๐‘ฌ๐‘น!”

The reason this story packs such a punch, is because the situation could have happened to any of us. It was incredibly easy to slide into Jo’s shoes and understand the confusion, sadness, regret, hurt, horror and anger she felt when the truth of her mother was revealed. How devastating it is when something so horrible can become your reality, and the hurt that comes with it when you don’t have a support system at home to guide you through it.

“๐‘บ๐’, ๐’Š๐’๐’”๐’•๐’†๐’‚๐’…, ๐‘ฐ ๐’ˆ๐’. ๐‘พ๐’Š๐’•๐’‰๐’๐’–๐’• ๐’”๐’‚๐’š๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’ˆ๐’๐’๐’…๐’ƒ๐’š๐’†, ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰๐’๐’–๐’• ๐’•๐’†๐’๐’๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’Ž ๐’˜๐’‰๐’†๐’ ๐‘ฐ’๐’๐’ ๐’ƒ๐’† ๐’‰๐’๐’Ž๐’†. ๐‘ฐ ๐’”๐’Š๐’Ž๐’‘๐’๐’š ๐’”๐’‘๐’Š๐’ ๐’‚๐’“๐’๐’–๐’๐’… ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’”๐’•๐’‚๐’๐’Œ ๐’‚๐’„๐’“๐’๐’”๐’” ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‘๐’‚๐’“๐’Œ๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’๐’๐’• ๐’•๐’๐’˜๐’‚๐’“๐’… ๐’Ž๐’š ๐’„๐’‚๐’“, ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’˜๐’‰๐’๐’๐’† ๐’•๐’Š๐’Ž๐’† ๐’•๐’“๐’š๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’๐’๐’• ๐’•๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’Š๐’๐’Œ ๐’•๐’๐’ ๐’‰๐’‚๐’“๐’… ๐’๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‡๐’‚๐’„๐’• ๐’•๐’‰๐’‚๐’• ๐‘ฎ๐’“๐’‚๐’ ๐’”๐’ ๐’˜๐’Š๐’๐’๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ๐’๐’š ๐’๐’†๐’• ๐’Ž๐’† ๐’ˆ๐’. ๐‘ป๐’‰๐’† ๐’‡๐’‚๐’„๐’• ๐’•๐’‰๐’‚๐’• ๐’Ž๐’‚๐’š๐’ƒ๐’† ๐‘ฐ’๐’Ž ๐’๐’๐’• ๐’˜๐’๐’“๐’•๐’‰ ๐’‡๐’Š๐’ˆ๐’‰๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‡๐’๐’“ ๐’‚๐’๐’š๐’Ž๐’๐’“๐’†.”

 

When Jo reveals to her grandparents that she knows the truth about her mother, they still refuse to speak about it. They brush it under the rug, preferring silence and forced indifference. And though it is shocking that they lied to her about how her mother died…I don’t blame them for the decision they made in protecting her.

But the way they handle Jo’s trauma and their own is…suffocating.

There are no pictures on the walls or in photo albums of Jo’s mother. None of her mementos are displayed and she is never brought up or talked about. So Jo is left feeling as if she cannot speak about this woman she has so much love for, but is starting to forget. This woman she so desperately craves was in her life and guiding her through her teenage years.

This woman who she believes she murdered.

“๐‘ฏ๐’† ๐’”๐’„๐’๐’๐’‘๐’” ๐’Ž๐’š ๐’“๐’Š๐’ˆ๐’Š๐’… ๐’ƒ๐’๐’…๐’š ๐’•๐’๐’˜๐’‚๐’“๐’… ๐’‰๐’Š๐’Ž, ๐’•๐’Š๐’ˆ๐’‰๐’• ๐’Š๐’๐’•๐’ ๐’‰๐’Š๐’” ๐’„๐’‰๐’†๐’”๐’•. ๐‘บ๐’ ๐’„๐’๐’๐’”๐’† ๐’•๐’‰๐’‚๐’• ๐‘ฐ ๐’„๐’‚๐’ ๐’‰๐’†๐’‚๐’“ ๐’‰๐’Š๐’” ๐’‰๐’†๐’‚๐’“ ๐’ƒ๐’†๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ, ๐’†๐’‚๐’„๐’‰ ๐’ƒ๐’–-๐’ƒ๐’–๐’Ž ๐’ƒ๐’–-๐’ƒ๐’–๐’Ž ๐’ƒ๐’–-๐’ƒ๐’–๐’Ž ๐’•๐’–๐’“๐’๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’Š๐’๐’•๐’ ๐’‚ ๐’ˆ๐’–๐’๐’”๐’‰๐’๐’•. ๐‘ถ๐’๐’† ๐’‚๐’‡๐’•๐’†๐’“ ๐’‚๐’๐’๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’“.

๐‘ฉ๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ.

๐‘ฉ๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ.

๐‘ฉ๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ.”

Thankfully, Jo has two epic best friends that I wish upon all wishes and stars that I could have in my life.

“๐‘ป๐’‰๐’† ๐’…๐’๐’๐’“ ๐’„๐’๐’Š๐’„๐’Œ๐’” ๐’”๐’‰๐’–๐’•. ๐‘ป๐’˜๐’ ๐’ˆ๐’†๐’๐’•๐’๐’† ๐’”๐’†๐’•๐’” ๐’๐’‡ ๐’‡๐’†๐’†๐’• ๐’•๐’Š๐’‘๐’•๐’๐’† ๐’‚๐’„๐’“๐’๐’”๐’” ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’“๐’๐’๐’Ž, ๐’Ž๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ๐’ ๐’ƒ๐’๐’…๐’š ๐’Ž๐’Š๐’”๐’• ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐‘ซ๐’‚๐’Š๐’”๐’š ๐’‘๐’†๐’“๐’‡๐’–๐’Ž๐’† ๐’˜๐’‚๐’‡๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’Š๐’ ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰ ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’Ž. ๐‘ณ๐’†๐’‚๐’‰ ๐’„๐’–๐’“๐’๐’” ๐’–๐’‘ ๐’๐’ ๐’๐’๐’† ๐’”๐’Š๐’…๐’† ๐’๐’‡ ๐’Ž๐’†, ๐‘ฎ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’ƒ๐’š ๐’๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’“. ๐‘บ๐’˜๐’†๐’‚๐’•๐’†๐’“๐’” ๐’˜๐’‚๐’“๐’Ž, ๐’”๐’Œ๐’Š๐’ ๐’„๐’๐’๐’…. ๐‘ด๐’š ๐’•๐’“๐’–๐’”๐’•๐’š ๐‘น๐’๐’•๐’•๐’˜๐’†๐’Š๐’๐’†๐’“๐’” ๐’…๐’๐’’๐’• ๐’”๐’‚๐’š ๐’‚๐’๐’š๐’•๐’‰๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ.”

These girls are the rocks that keep Jo from slipping down a river of depression and deep self-loathing. They are fiercely loyal and understanding, go out of their way to ensure that their friend is cared for and heard, and refuse to leave her side. Their love for one another had me hardcore tearing up and cooing throughout the story. These two girls make this story.

“๐‘ฐ ๐’”๐’’๐’–๐’†๐’†๐’›๐’† ๐’Ž๐’š ๐’†๐’š๐’†๐’” ๐’”๐’‰๐’–๐’• ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’ ๐’๐’‘๐’†๐’ ๐’•๐’‰๐’†๐’Ž ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰ ๐’‚ ๐’”๐’‰๐’‚๐’“๐’‘ ๐’Š๐’๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’†, ๐’๐’๐’•๐’Š๐’„๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‚ ๐’ˆ๐’–๐’-๐’”๐’‰๐’‚๐’‘๐’†๐’… ๐’„๐’“๐’‚๐’„๐’Œ ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’๐’—๐’† ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’„๐’๐’๐’”๐’†๐’• ๐’…๐’๐’๐’“. ๐‘ฌ๐’—๐’†๐’ ๐‘ด๐’Š๐’๐’’๐’” ๐’„๐’†๐’Š๐’๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’Œ๐’๐’๐’˜๐’” ๐’˜๐’‰๐’‚๐’• ๐‘ฐ’๐’—๐’† ๐’…๐’๐’๐’†.”

“๐‘ด๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’‡๐’“๐’๐’Ž ๐’‰๐’Š๐’”๐’•๐’๐’“๐’š.”

Another big character in this story is Milo – the new boy in school and Jo’s new boyfriend. Their romance is sweet and their chemistry is sizzling, but more importantly, Milo is another person in Jo’s life that she can lean on for support. Though he doesn’t have as big a role as Leah and Gabby, and his personality doesn’t shine through as much as the girls, his own troubles with his father gives a level of understanding to Milo and Jo that can’t be emulated. And no matter how dark Jo’s life gets, Milo is always there to help her see the light.

“๐‘ฐ๐’• ๐’˜๐’‚๐’” ๐’‡๐’–๐’, ๐’ƒ๐’–๐’• ๐‘ฐ’๐’Ž ๐’Œ๐’Š๐’๐’… ๐’๐’‡ ๐’…๐’‚๐’Ž๐’‚๐’ˆ๐’†๐’… ๐’ˆ๐’๐’๐’…๐’”.”

“๐‘ต๐’๐’• ๐’…๐’‚๐’Ž๐’‚๐’ˆ๐’†๐’…,” ๐’‰๐’† ๐’˜๐’‰๐’Š๐’”๐’‘๐’†๐’“๐’”. “๐‘ฑ๐’–๐’”๐’• ๐’ˆ๐’๐’๐’….”

For the first half of this book, the reader watches Jo slowly spiral into anger and a sort of manic state as she tries to cope with her past. And at sixteen, it’s not exactly easy to have control over your emotions. But the person Jo turns into in the second half of the book was irritating. She was aggressive and constantly throwing tantrums, stomping her foot and having explosive reactions to the littlest things. Of course, this does feel authentic to a young teenager going through some serious trauma – but it was still exhausting and a turn-off.

And how Johanna works towards getting a mural painted at her school to shed light on gun violence was also…cringey. By this point Jo is full-blown immature and slightly ridiculous, so it was a bit harder to get through. And though this was a gut-flipping story, I was really wanting more emotion from Jo because I didn’t feel like I got a true sense of the chaos that was brewing inside her. She had huge reactions and panic attacks, but I wanted more description into how hurt and lost she felt inside.

But the real driving force in this story is obviously gun safety, but also self-acceptance and the need to work through trauma.

When Jo’s father renters her life, he brings a few secrets with him that he slowly reveals along the way, and they’re tragic. It broke my heart how Jo was constantly let down by these really big parental figures in her life. But, imagine it. Not only are you the cause for your mother dying, but you are also the spitting image of a daughter and lover that has been lost. Nothing about this situation is easier or less horrible for anyone involved.

Accidental is a powerful and heartbreaking story, but a necessary one.

No matter what stance you take on this topic, trust me when I say, you need to read this.

“๐‘ฐ ๐’๐’๐’—๐’† ๐’š๐’๐’–, ๐’Œ๐’Š๐’…๐’…๐’. ๐‘ฉ๐’š๐’†.”

“๐‘ฐ ๐’๐’๐’—๐’† ๐’š๐’๐’–, ๐’Œ๐’Š๐’…๐’…๐’.”

“๐‘ฐ ๐’๐’๐’—๐’† ๐’š๐’๐’–.”

 

4.5 Stars

 

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