I haven’t read a lot of books by Jessica Brody – while I have quite a few of the ones that she has written so far, the only one that I have actually gotten around to reading was Addie Bell’s Shortcut to Growing Up. I thought that was a really cute book for both middle graders, young adults, and adults who enjoy young adult and middle grade (like me!). So I had really high hopes for The Chaos of Standing Still.
“I will always be a survivor. I will always be the girl who didn’t get in the car that day. That will be my identity until the day I die.
After that, no one can call me survivor anymore.”
The Chaos of Standing Still tells the story of Ryn, a girl who is dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy even a year after it happened, who gets stuck in an airport on her way home because of a horrible snowstorm. Since her anxiety is through the roof already, she spends a good portion of her time Googling questions on her phone (something that is incredibly important to her), and staring at the notification that reminds her that she has one unread message. That unread message is from her best friend, Lottie, and has sat on her phone since the day she died. Ryn hasn’t read it, and can’t bring herself to read it, because she believes that once she reads that message and the notification goes away, then she has to accept that Lottie is really gone.
“I swiped my phone screen on and stared down at my messaging app.
One unread message
One unanswered question.
One piece of her still left. Still alive. Still existing in the world.”
Ryn’s obsession with that text message, coupled with the guilt that she feels about surviving while her best friend died, as well as her never ending need to look up questions she has on her phone, Ryn has a hard time coping with the fact that she will be stuck in this airport overnight at least. She wants to get home so that she can fall apart the next day all alone – because the next day will mark one year that her best friend Lottie died.
When Ryn runs into a cute boy by accident, and the two of them end up grabbing each other’s phones and then having to switch them back, it turns into a a completely different experience for Ryn – one that she isn’t sure what to do with, especially when the boy asks her to have lunch with him, and then hang out with him in the airport. At first, Ryn is hesitant, but she eventually gives in to Lottie’s voice, which she fabricates in her mind to help deal with her grief. Lottie’s voice tells her that she needs to take him up on his offer, and against her better judgement, Ryn finds herself having lunch with a cute boy, having a party with some of the staff at the airport, and finally coming to terms with grief she has been burying for a year.
“It was at that moment, in my eight years of life, that I realized there are two kinds of people in this world: those who eat their Push-Up Popsicles a little at a time. And those who try to devour them whole. Or in other words: There was me and there was Lottie.”
I really enjoyed the friendship aspect of The Chaos of Standing Still. Even though Lottie is dead, we still get a lot of flashbacks about their friendship, including how they became friends, and I feel like we get to know Lottie a lot better than Ryn. It’s easy to see how much Ryn loved Lottie, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to watch as she crumbles under her grief. Their friendship was really something special, through the good and the bad.
The grief that Ryn has to deal with is heartbreaking, and the fact that a cute boy in an airport can more or less force her to face it was interesting – all the feelings that she had, her anxiety, her survivor’s guilt – it all comes to the surface in this novel, and it kind of grabs you and sucks you in so that you can almost feel what she is feeling. Jessica Brody did a really great job writing her character and the devastating things that she was dealing with.
Ryn’s character was interesting, and I did like her, but I wasn’t really able to connect with Xander’s character all that much. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, he just seemed kind of cookie-cutter, although both Lottie and Ryn’s characters were really rounded. I do feel like by focusing completely on the tragedy and other things that Ryn was dealing with, we didn’t really get a good view of who she was before the accident, or the more positive qualities of who she was. I was hoping that the book would also focus on some other things, but everything just seemed really negative. I understand that the author was trying to create a heartbreaking/heartwarming story, but I just wish there would have been more to focus on.
For me, it’s a bit hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong with The Chaos of Standing Still. It was a good book, it really brought out some emotions for me, and I thought that it had a lot to offer in terms of plot. But I just wasn’t able to connect to the characters as much as I would have loved to, considering that this book is character driven and takes place over such a short period of time.
I really flew through this book and I read it pretty much in a single night. It’s a really great book to curl up with during the winter with some tea and a big, warm blanket. I definitely will be picking up more books by Jessica Brody when they come out.