“I am Comet Caldwell.
“And I sort of, kind of, absolutely hate my name.”
Thus begins Comet’s journey in The Fragile Ordinary. Comet is a 16-year-old girl from Scotland with two disinterested parents who prefers escaping into the world of books or writing poetry to socializing. This can get her in a bit of trouble with her friends, Vicki and Steph, who are trying to pull her out of her shell. When a new boy at school makes Comet’s heart beat faster and her skin turn redder than its ever been, Comet struggles to understand and control her response to Tobias King. When King is assigned the seat next to her in one of her classes and they have to work on a project together she discovers there’s much more to the American “bad boy” than meets the eye.
Comet’s story is relatable for many teens who are trying to figure out who they are and struggling to adjust to the changes that growing up brings. Young walks a very fine line, presenting these teens as real without overusing curse words or overemphasizing some of the teen perils that are touched on. From Comet to Tobias to Vicki to Steph, all of the main characters in this book will have to grapple with who they are and what they want from life to some extent, and teens will relate to the challenges they’re facing themselves as they figure out their plans for the future. Bullying is a reality at school, and nobody pretends to have the perfect answer for how to deal with the problem. Just going through the thought processes for the decisions that Comet and others make may help some readers feel as though they aren’t so alone, and may give those struggling with similar issues ideas for how to resolve their own problems.
Family issues are front and center. Comet’s disinterested artsy parents are more wrapped up in each other than anything else and are anything but typical. Her neighbor is more of a parental figure than Kyle or Carrie, as Comet has been instructed to call Dad and Mom. As Comet gains confidence she confronts her parents about how they treat her, and comes to terms with what that means for her relationship with them moving forward.
Tobias comes off like a bad boy and definitely has an attitude. Once Comet starts to get to know him, all of the reasons for his anger make sense. I don’t want to say too much there because of potential spoilers, but this was a really believable and compelling part of the story. Both Comet and Tobias are dealing with imperfect parents and coming to terms with how their parents have – for better or worse – shaped their lives. Tobias also has family in town, and his cousin has a bad reputation. When his cousin’s mom is diagnosed with cancer things spiral, and both Tobias and Comet struggle with how to help him.
The dynamics between the three girls are also pretty interesting. Comet is better friends with Vicki than Steph, who is self-absorbed and likes to be the center of attention. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a future where Comet and Steph have completely drifted apart. One of the things Comet really has to think about throughout the story is how her decisions (to withdraw, stay home and read, not go to parties or socialize) are affecting her friendships.
Overall, Comet matures and blossoms in this coming-of-age story, while grappling with some big decisions and big problems. Whether you’re a teen whose drifting apart from your more sociable friends or someone who’s being bullied or worried about a peer who’s having serious family problems or a parent trying to understand your teenager, you’ll find some keen insights woven into the fabric of this engaging story.