The Odds by Amy Kinzer

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Odds of dying in a plane crash: 1 in 20,000.
Odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident: 1 in 256.
Odds of living a normal life for Ethan Sorenson: impossible.

Fifteen-year-old Ethan Sorenson lives life on the periphery… and it’s not intentional. A scholarship student at the prestigious Evergreen Preparatory Academy in Seattle, all Ethan wants is to fit in with his prep-school classmates. But Ethan’s divorced mother – a senior actuary at Northwest Life Insurance who calculates insurance risks – is convinced he is going to die. The most mundane moments pose a risk of death according to Ethan’s mother. Life is even worse for Ethan’s four-year-old brother who still wears clothes with snaps and rides in a stroller.

When Ethan befriends the school’s star baseball player he gets a chance to break into Evergreen’s elite social circle. He sneaks out at night, he goes to parties attended by his love interest, and his new friend teaches him to drive. But then his crush starts dating someone else and his mom calls the cops when she finds his bed empty in the middle of the night. Desperate to escape his mother’s strange rules, Ethan kidnaps his brother and goes to Oregon on a search for his dad. But Ethan’s father’s not in Oregon. Instead he uncovers a family secret that explains his mother’s odd behavior, finds out the truth about the disappearance of a childhood neighbor, and gets a chance to repair his family before it’s too late.

From Publishers Weekly

Ethan, a painfully overprotected teenager and the narrator of this winning story, is a sophomore in high school. His father has been gone for three years. His mother is an actuary for an insurance company, calculating the risk of various mortal accidents. She then imposes her resulting paranoia on Ethan and his brother, only letting them out of the house for study group and not letting Ethan get his driver’s license. Finally, fed-up with watching parties from his bedroom window and being ridiculed by his peers, Ethan starts to take control of his life. Ethan’s voice is strong, consistent, and clear, and the author has done a good job in setting up a plot full of hooks: the mystery of Ethan's next-door neighbor; a strange man Ethan keeps running into; the reason for Ethan's dad's departure and why Ethan hasn't heard from him; and, of course, there’s the girl he has a crush on. It's refreshing to encounter a YA novel that is a realistic account of a teenager's life that still feels unique and compelling to the end. (This book was reviewed as part of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.)

About Amy Kinzer

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Published October 4, 2011 231 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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