October 2, 2012
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Mia is always looking for signs. A sign that she should get serious with her soccer-captain boyfriend. A sign that she’ll get the grades to make it into an Ivy-league school. One sign she didn’t expect to look for was: “Will I survive cancer?” It’s a question her friends would never understand, prompting Mia to keep her illness a secret. The only one who knows is her lifelong best friend, Gyver, who is poised to be so much more. Mia is determined to survive, but when you have so much going your way, there is so much more to lose. From debut author Tiffany Schmidt comes a heart-wrenching and ultimately uplifting story of one girl’s search for signs of life in the face of death.*Happy, popular cheerleader Mia is ready for a relaxed summer spent with her friends and with Gyver, the guy next door she's been friends with for years - but not at the same time, her other friends and Gyver don't get along. It's her summer before senior year and it's all supposed to be perfect.
Then a trip to the doctor - followed by some other trips - gives Mia news she never expected: Mia has cancer.
It seems like the first thing she'd do would be to tell her friends, for support if nothing else. But some well placed words from her mother help Mia rethink that decision. Mia's mother and father, who each react quite differently don't react to the news in what I would call typical fashion. Their reaction, along with the actions it spurs in Mia make Send Me a Sign both unique and quite realistic seeming.
While in situations - even remotely similar - that I've been involved in or aware of, the parties involved have chosen to act differently, for these characters, it made sense. Mia's mother's actions, actually, remind me of how someone I know acted - only to a much lesser degree.
They weren't a family who had behaved one way and then all of a sudden, with Mia's diagnosis, another side came out. It was still very much them, we just saw these traits of their personality manifested in a different way, or perhaps magnified.
The other teenage characters were well written. They didn't always do what you wanted them to, or when or how you wanted them to, but in the end you could see why. They had depth and it their actions made them seem both their age and real.
There was a sort of throw-away line about telling someone Mia had a migraine and that's why she had to leave school. I thought something else could have been said/used. Send Me a Sign is such a great novel of understanding - for the character and her experiences - and I've grown tired of the dismissive 'had a migraine' excuse (when the character either only had a headache or needed an excuse for not doing something). It disappointed me a bit.
While Mia is constantly looking at things that might be irrelevant to see if they'r signs - a sign to keep her secret, a sign to tell, a sign for this, for that - and she is getting her cancer treated, she's still trying to have a normal senior year. It's definitely complicated by her cancer - and her secret - but Schmidt hasn't forgotten that through it all Mia is a teenager.
Mia's normal teenage issues - dating, parties, cheerleading, academics - aren't pushed away in the face of her illness, but they're also not written as if nothing has changed for her. In her debut, Tiffany Schmidt has found a way to tell a story that not only perfectly balances but actually intertwines Mia's cancer battle along with her quest to remain a normal teenager with friends, love and happiness.
*(I'm using this book's blurb instead of writing my own synopsis because it's not spoilery and anything I did write, would end up too similar)
**I love Gyver's name . . . and he's not too bad, either.