Cover Designer: Caroline Tse
This is a lovely story. Here’s my 5 star review.
Worst Case by Beck Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Face the Worst Case
Anxiety is weird. When we feel anxious, we try to avoid the thing that’s jacking up our sympathetic nervous system. Too bad avoidance often increases anxiety. The best strategy for reducing anxiety is to approach it head-on–ask a honey out on a date, deliver public speeches, drive to a friend’s over snowy roads–but who has the gumption to do that?
Vivi Lewis just might be the one.
Vivi is a 17 year old whose mother’s nervous system is on overdrive. Convinced the world is dangerous, her mother keeps uprooting her from town to town, running from her fears. Her mother even has the gall to move her to Idaho in the midst of Vivi’s senior year.
What an interesting setting for the story: Coeur d’Alene. I lived in eastern Washington for a year and still remember the breathtaking views of the lake and resort when I visited this northern Idaho town. But Vivi’s mother hasn’t moved her here for the view. It’s another ploy by her mother to avoid her crippling anxiety.
Thankfully a neighbor boy, Win, makes Vivi feel right at home from the get-go. He’s got his own secret worst case that has made him wise beyond his years.
Vivi has inherited her mother’s anxious brain, which includes worry and panic attacks but also the gifts of anxiety: kindness, intelligence, and keen observational skills, like:
The space thing, I’ve always been fascinated by it. Grown-ups take up a lot of space, most of them. Men. They spread out on bus seats. They take their half of the hallway out of the middle.
Win does this, but not in a man-spread, irritating way. In a “clear the way, here he comes” kind of way. He is noticed, and people move for him.
A path clears for Win. And here I am, riding in his wake. What an intoxicating feeling.
*nods* I agree with Vivi. On airplanes, I seek a seat next to a woman, not a man, because of this space thing. I’m not a small person and the women next to me might not be small either, but they don’t tend to “spread out” like men do. (PS I love men but I don’t want to be cramped on a long flight!)
Sounds like Vivi has had some therapy–too bad her mother is reluctant to see a therapist–and I like this metaphor:
It sucks, anxiety. I had a psychologist once who told me it’s best to try to think of anxiety like it’s the flu. When you have the flu, you don’t get owned by it. It doesn’t dominate you, it doesn’t define you. It’s just something you have, and you deal with it.
I enjoyed Vivi’s quirky humor, like when she tries paddle boarding:
Win’s out in the water, up to the waist, and when I put a toe in, it’s really, really cold.
“It feels hypothermic. Like Jack-and-Rose cold.”
…or when an annoying but lovable girlfriend makes a big deal of her kissing Win:
Phoebe jumps up and down.
Win breaks the kiss and pulls me into a hug. “Don’t move. If we’re still, maybe she’ll move on.”
“She’s not a tyrannosaurus rex. She can still see us,” I murmur. But I’d be happy to just stand here in his arms.
Vivi and Win keep alluding to the big talk they need to have, revealing their inner demons, and I think it takes a bit too long for them to share their secrets. The build-up makes their secrets seem anticlimactic, when upon reflection, family problems like these would challenge any teen.
Beck Anderson’s straightforward writing style and unique observations of the world continue to impress me. I’ll read anything she writes!
So, back to facing anxiety. When I have “what-if” questions, like “What if I don’t get my to-do list done?”, instead of trying to banish those thoughts from my mind, cognitive-behavioral therapy has taught me to go deep into the worst-case scenario and imagine coping with it. I ask myself three questions: 1) What’s the worst case scenario? 2) What’s the likelihood of that event? and 3) Even if that unlikely worst case scenario happens, could I handle it? Asking these questions convinces me that I won’t *die* if I fail to finish my to-do list.
Luckily for Vivi and Win, they help each other face their own worst cases, and it’s a worthy journey.
Will she risk the fall and take a leap of faith?
Vivi Lewis just wants to stay in one place for more than a minute. It’s April of her senior year, for crying out loud, and here she is again, packed into a beat-up white Toyota with her anxiety-ridden single mom, fleeing the Washington coast. She hopes that this move—the one that’s taken them inland to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho—will finally be their true fresh start.
There’s little to indicate this time will be much different from all the others…until Vivi meets Win Kemper at the city bus stop before her first day of school. Win and Vivi are a perfect match—both self-defined weirdos. Vivi trusts Win, and their time together is a whirlwind of cliff-jumping and paddleboarding, a life immersed in nature that would have given her, and especially her mom, a panic attack in the past. Their instant spark becomes a rock-solid friendship, and might be even more, if Vivi can stick around long enough to experience it.
But having a reason to stay also raises the stakes. Running from their fears has never made Vivi and her mom safe enough before, and now everything she has to lose appears in sharp relief. Can she find the strength to separate herself from her mother? Will the burgeoning bond she and Win share be enough to get them beyond the last twenty-six days of senior year—even when the worst-case scenario comes to pass?
Beck Anderson believes in the power of perfectly imperfect women and in the healing power of love.
A two-time Rita© finalist, she’s the author of five novels including the Fix You series and The Jeweler. Her newest YA romance, Worst Case, releases 1/16/18.
Beck balances (clumsily at best) writing novels and screenplays, working full-time as an educator, mothering two boys, loving one husband, and making time to walk the foothills of Boise, Idaho, with Stefano DiMera Delfino Anderson, the suavest Chihuahua north of the border.