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The Miraculous

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
The Miraculous Book Poster Image
Mysterious story struggles to deal with death and religion.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some references to religious texts and poetry relating to miracles. Walt Whitman is quoted.

Positive Messages

Miracles happen every day. Sometimes the brightest miracles are in the darkest moments. There are many ways to praise and remember the dead. No one is truly gone. Love never ends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The adults in this story are either blindsided by grief or are absent. The "witch" in the DoorWay House is kind and benevolent, but it's not clear whether she's a human or a ghost. Officer Soto is understanding when two characters break the law.

Violence

Description of an infant's death and her tiny, white coffin could be intense for some readers. Death as a subject takes a center stage in the story. Wunder throws a book at his friend Davy.

Sex
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jess Redman's The Miraculous deals with the death of an infant and her brother's consequent loss of faith in miracles. There are religious elements to the book: questions of whether a character has faith in God or not ("And you need to get to know the Lord," a character says to a child). Christian ceremonies and churches are described, topics such as miracles and faith are discussed at length. A character studies the occult. A mother's depression causes her to lock herself in a room. Kids break into a municipal building and get caught by police. An insensitive friend says of the deceased sister: "She was alive for like, two days, what's the big deal?"    

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What's the story?

In THE MIRACULOUS, the first novel by therapist Jess Redman, a boy named Wunder has considered himself an expert in the field of miracles. He has created a book called "The Miraculous" that he's filled with examples of miracles, both ordinary and extraordinary. But when his baby sister dies after only eight days of living, Wunder's belief in miracles dries up, and he finds himself struggling with his faith and his place in the world. He then meets an unusual cape-wearing girl named Faye, who challenges him to find answers. The two encounter a mysterious figure who asks them to help her with a task that will change their lives, and the lives of the people in their community. 

Is it any good?

Pursuit of miracles and exploration of death punctuate a story that feels forced. The Miraculous tries to connect with the mysterious and the magical by conjuring a mystical house with spinning wooden walls and a witch who waves at people as they are leaving the cemetery. But it feels like he main character, Wunder, is being written about, as if he were part of a fairy tale. His struggles and challenges are catalogued rather than lovingly revealed. Because Wunder is such a key player in the book, this deficiency affects the entire story, making it feel wooden and plodding. The descriptions of religion, church, faith and yes, miracles, aren't subtle either, which is disappointing. 

Thank goodness for Wunder's new friend Faye, whose weirdness and passion for the occult add zest to an otherwise sad story. She serves to make the plot move forward and to ask hard questions, such as, why the dead sister's crib is still in Wunder's room --"That's awful!" she cries. (Whether her portrayal as being screechy and bossy is tied to her Korean-American identity is up to readers, but the stereotype raises questions.) Dealing with death as it relates to children, no matter how shrouded in mystery and adventure, requires tact and skill. Unfortunately, The Miraculous falls a little short of its title.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how religion plays a role in The Miraculous. How do religious themes appear in media you engage in? Are you comfortable or uncomfortable seeing different religions portrayed in media?

  • Death is a subject that's explored at length in this book. What resources does Wunder use to help get through a tough time? What is missing?

  • Wunder's friends don't know how to act when he returns to school after his sister's death. What would you do if you were his friend?

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For kids who love coming-of-age stories and family tales

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