The Wonder of All Things, by Jason Mott
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
304 pages, eBook
Expected Publication: 30th September 2014
Tragedy strikes a small town when a plane accidentally crashes into a crowd of air show spectators. Among the casualties is a boy named Wash who is found amid the wreckage seriously injured, bloody and torn, by his best friend Ava. Distraught and panicked, Ava lays her hands upon Wash and they both witness his wounds miraculously heal. The existence of Ava’s power does not stay secret, but the healing results of using that power do not come without exacting a brutal price upon her. As others flock to the town to seek Ava’s aid, or to perhaps exploit and control her for their own goals, Ava and her single father, along with Wash and the grandmother who raises him must deal with these outside forces as well as new personal discoveries.
When I requested an advanced reading copy of this through NetGalley a part of me worried that the publisher would consider my thoughts on Jason Mott’s last book, The Returned, and refuse me. Though popular and spawning a television show, that novel left me feeling disappointed. The biggest factors in that reaction were its ending, which I found bordering on cartoonish, and the dilution of its focus across too wide a range of stories/points of view. But aspects of The Returned still impressed me and I was more than willing to try another of Mott’s novels (or I wouldn’t have made the request). With The Wonder of All Things Mott avoids both of the above problems as I saw them and writes a touching story with compelling characters that flows sharply in readability and tone.
The thematic set up for The Wonder of All Things is familiar to those who have read Mott – a sudden, unanticipated event that magically alters a normal causal relationship between life and death. The mysterious event (or in this case power) engenders a bit of awe, reverence, hope, and fear simultaneously in people; how they respond and deal with the newfound situation or power becomes the novel’s central focus. Very effectively here, Mott puts the brunt of this focus directly on Ava and Wash and to their guardians. Other characters also react in unique ways to Ava’s power and its implications, but their decisions and actions all filter back to those protagonists, rather than being dispersed through multiple protagonists as in his previous novel.
Ava’s magical powers to heal are straightforward and Mott takes this simple ‘what if?’ scenario and proceeds to deeply investigate its impact on the young girl and those closest to her. Mott writes his children characters most vividly, endearing them to the reader and investing them in their struggles, in particular to Ava’s desire to help those she cares about around her, but on her own terms.
Overall the adult characters seem less solid, present each as more of a narrative impetus for Ava’s character. The primary exception to this is Ava’s mother, who died prior to the start of the novel and is present through flashbacks of Ava’s childhood and her mother’s early realization of Ava’s healing powers and the price it exacted. Ava’s mother is a fascinating character, strong and loving yet weakened by bouts of serious depression. The parallels that Mott draws between physical and mental health are important and Mott effectively unites the past and present of the novel through the comparisons between Ava’s loving mother and others in really understanding the consequences and power of Ava’s gift/curse.
Those who enjoyed The Return should also appreciate The Wonder of All Things, but those on the fence could find this an enjoyable and worthwhile read.
Four Stars out of Five
Disclaimer: I received a free advanced electronic reading copy of this from Harlequin Mira via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.