Imagine that something snuck in and stole an item very precious from you, something that would completely alter the trajectory of your life. Then imagine that this invaluable thing was somehow given back to you in limited measure…but the reason it came back was heartbreaking.
She was born to play soccer, to follow in her larger-than-life mother’s cleated footsteps. Maggie’s mother was a powerhouse player, suddenly sidelined by a career-ending injury. It wasn’t until Maggie asked her to coach her that her mother realized she could still have soccer, just not in the way she’d originally thought. It rejuvenated her, and brought Maggie and her mother close again. Then the unthinkable happened; Maggie gets bacterial meningitis, and in a matter of hours, her sight is gone. Trying to navigate her way through her new life and surroundings, Maggie finds it easier to push her old friends away, avoid leaving the house, and lose herself in listening to music. Her parents tiptoe around her, each in their own way; Dad is worrisome and Mom is absent.
Now on a downwards slide, Maggie pulls a prank at her new school that gets her several dates with probation officer. When she falls and hits her head in his lobby, she is dumbfounded when she can see the young boy who asks if she’s OK. Ten-year-old Ben Melton declares her his girlfriend, calls her “Thera” after a favorite kick-ass video game character, invites her home for dinner, and pulls her into his happy orbit without a backward glance. It’s not until later that she learns that he is the younger brother of Mason Melton, the lead singer of her favorite band, The Loose Cannons.
Ben is the most relentlessly positive person Maggie has ever met, even with his ever-present crutches and his spina bifida. So of course, she’s sure she’s hit her head so hard that she’s hallucinating the entire encounter. Once she’s figured out he’s real, and she can only see when he’s around, she swears him to secrecy since she’s sure that people will think she’s having some kind of episode. She suspects that Mason thinks she’s faking her blindness and using Ben to get near him, and while neither of those things is true, is Maggie using Ben to try to be the seeing person she used to be?
The funny thing is that I had to keep reminding myself that this book, though contemporary in tone, is, underneath it all, a fantasy. The backbone on which the entire story hangs is a what-if daydream. But the rest of the entire story is 100% reality. Once you accept that this return of vision thing could happen and did happen, it becomes part of that reality. This tale is 90% about relationships; our hopes and dreams, our parents’ hopes and dreams for us, how people handle tragedy; how people change, how to move on, how to ask for help, how to allow people in.
All of the characters are three-dimensional, flawed and real, with the situations both full of elation and heartbreaking. Maggie has to accept her blindness, but tries to put that off by refusing to learn how to navigate, both literally and figuratively, through her new circumstance. Ben’s sweetness and utter guilelessness is the ladder that Maggie needs to climb out of her pit of despair and sarcasm. Will she take hold?
The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis was published September 8, 2015 by Disney Hyperion. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to the Publisher, the Author and NetGalley.
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction Fantasy Romance
Ages: 13 and up