Just one month ago, Dane Rafferty was the best skier on his high school skiing team. He was smart, dating a great girl, then all of a sudden, paralyzed by Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Dane has heard the doctors talking and knows there's a good chance he'll recover. Actually, forget the 75% chance the doctors are quoting—Dane truly believes he'll recover completely in just a month or two. After all, nothing has ever stopped him before.
I'll be honest here: Dane is the most obnoxious, unlikable protagonist I've read about this year. He was also one of the most compelling characters I've read about this year. Maybe it sounds callous, saying I found a guy who used to be active and athletic but is now paralyzed to be obnoxious and unlikable. But, seriously, the guy's a jerk, and you can't blame the stress of falling ill or working hard in therapy for it. Most of the book is set in Florida, at the rehabilitation hospital Dane is convalescing at, but Roe devotes several chapters to Dane's pre-GBS life, and he was just as arrogant, selfish, and self-centered then as he is in Florida. (I'd actually prefer to call him something else, but I'm not sure it's allowed here at Guys Lit Wire.)
Liking a character and finding him compelling, caring about what happens to him in one way or another, are completely different things. Dane could be Exhibit A highlighting this difference. But I can't imagine Thaw working if Dane was depicted a nice guy. It would be too easy to pity him, to wish all of his problems would magically be resolved. As it is, Monica M. Roe has created a believably annoying, aggravating narrator in Dane, and the progress he makes—both physically and in terms of his personality—feel earned.
Thaw is a Cybils YA Fiction nominee and you can chalk this one up as another book I never would have picked up if it hadn't been nominated but am glad I read.
[cross-posted at The YA YA YAs]
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