illus. by Debra Sfetsios-Conover. 352p. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Bks. May 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481435253.
Gr 4–6—In Cronin's middle grade debut, 12-year-old Nora longs to ride the Cyclone, a tall, shaky wooden roller coaster in Coney Island, NY. No one in Nora's family wants to join her, so Nora blackmails her cousin Riley into joining her by threatening to share a secret with Riley's mother. Once Riley gets off the Cyclone, she collapses, and doctors at the hospital reveal that she has a heart condition that caused a stroke. Riley can no longer remember what happened, speak, or care for herself, and Nora must come to terms with her guilt. Set primarily in a hospital, Cronin's book chronicles Nora's mixed emotions about Riley's accident and the community she forms with a boy whose brother is undergoing chemotherapy. It also broadly touches on themes such as how people cope during tough times. Despite the tension between the two girls, Nora takes up Riley's hobby of drawing to help the girl communicate, and plotlines including the absence of Riley's father and the truth about Riley's secret keep the narrative moving. Many characters are well developed and slightly flawed, such as Riley's irresponsible aunt Elayne, who fights constantly with Nora's mother. This humorous tale ends on a satisfying and hopeful note. Adult drug addiction plays a role in the plot, and there is some swearing. Footnotes explain the medical aspects of this story.
VERDICT A novel that successfully tackles several serious subjects, including the struggles children and teens face regarding secrets and families. A first purchase for middle grade collections.

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