Here’s a confession: I don’t read a lot of contemporary. Shocking, I know. I like most of my entertainment to be a sort of escapism, and I gravitate towards stories that have an element of the fantastic. I love stories that inspire my imagination with things like magic and space and superpowers and monsters. But, on occasion, when the mood strikes, a contemporary will spark my interest.
This was one of those occasions. I was intrigued by the summary for this book — a mysterious death and a case of amnesia? What’s going on? — and thought it may actually be kind of refreshing to read a story based in the “real” world after all the crazy fantasy and sci fi I read. And it was.
Maggie’s group of 6 friends has been together since elementary school. They’ve grown up together and shared in all their activities. Cliff jumping is no exception, and the book opens as Maggie tries to gather up the courage to participate in a jump over Memorial Day weekend. Encouraged by her friends, especially Joey, who she has been dating for the past 2 years, Maggie finally summons up enough courage to jump off the cliff with Joey into the water far below.
But one minute Maggie and Joey are holding hands, running for the edge of the cliff; the next, Maggie is disoriented at the top and Joey is on the ground below — dead.
What follows is the aftermath of the accident, as Maggie struggles to remember what happened up on that cliff top, and attempts to recreate the last few week’s of Joey’s life. The five survivors are left with lots of questions and few answers as they all try to make sense of what happened. And their frustrations are exacerbated by the fact that one of them, Adam, has started avoiding them.
One Moment is actually fairly simple, and although the revelations throughout are shocking to Maggie, they were pretty predictable for me. But that didn’t keep me from enjoying the book.
The story is told from Maggie’s perspective, which means we are treated to the story of her friendships with the others and especially her romance with Joey in brief flashbacks, as Maggie tries to make sense of everything that’s happened to her. The flashbacks help to develop the characters and convey the depth of Maggie’s grief and confusion, and I thought they fit in well with the flow of the story.
Maggie herself is relatable and likable, although occasionally frustratingly naive. It got a little tiring to see all the clues laid out so obviously, but for her to still have no idea what was going on. I could excuse her partly because she’s young, and partially because she’s struggling to get past a major shock, but her continued ignorance (especially when she was offered answers and refused to listen) got a bit grating.
The other friends are developed to varying degrees. Joey is the most developed, through Maggie’s memories, and maybe it’s because I never really went for the mega-popular partying guys in high school, but I just failed to see his appeal. He and Maggie never seemed all that well matched to me, even in her memories. So while I appreciated what Maggie was going through, I didn’t find this book as sad as I was expecting, because I didn’t really mourn Joey along with her.
Her friend Adam was by far the most likable to me, and although I figured out really quickly what was going on with him, I still enjoyed reading about him. Shannon was the epitome of every girl I’ve ever had nothing in common with, and although she was far from one-dimensional, I couldn’t really understand what Adam and Shannon were doing in the same group of friends.
The least developed were Tanna and Pete, who don’t really add much to the character development of the other four, or do much to propel the story forward. It seems like they were mostly there to just establish that this is a group of friends, and not a teen soap on the CW. But I wish we’d have seen a bit more from them, Pete especially, whose main contribution to the story was playing semi-recent pop songs on his guitar (and Nickelback. Huh.)
The pacing was good, and I had absolutely no trouble finishing this book in just a few hours. I was never bored, I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with what was going on (which was impressive considering the frequent flashbacks), and I liked the simplicity of it.
There was an element of the story that I wish hadn’t been there, and I think the story would have been more poignant and bittersweet if the focus had simply been Maggie coming to terms with learning the truth about her dead boyfriend.
Highlight if you want to be spoiled: The love triangle between Joey, Maggie and Adam. I wish Adam could have just been her friend, helping her through her grief, instead of the patient guy waiting in the wings. A story about grief and PTSD doesn’t really need a love triangle to work, and having it resolve at the end almost cheapens everything that Maggie goes through in dealing with Joey’s death. He may not have been a saint, but watching her reactions as she learned more about him was definitely interesting enough. Additional romance was unnecessary.
Ultimately, I thought this was a well-written, interesting, simple story. While it didn’t pack quite the emotional punch I was hoping for, I still enjoyed it.
Content Guide: A disturbing death, some sexual content, profanity