Summary: When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.
After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.
Oh, this book.
Sometimes when I read a book I love, I want to stop every few paragraphs and tell the world about it. And sometimes when I read a book that captures my heart, I want to hold it close and tell no one about it as I lose myself in the story. The characters speak to me so strongly that I don’t want to share them.
Counting Thyme is one of the latter. The moment I met eleven-year-old Thyme – struggling to be okay in New York City when her whole life is thousands of miles away, feeling overlooked as her family struggles to deal with her brother’s cancer, resisting making a place for herself in her new home while still being drawn into her new life – I connected with this thoughtful protagonist. Thyme wants the things all young people want: friends, a happy family, a place in the world. She wants to count. And watching her navigate new relationships and changing old ones, all the time with the specter of her brother’s illness hanging over her, was a deeply moving experience.
If you’re expecting a “sad cancer book” full of noble suffering and platitudes, think again. Yes, Thyme’s little brother has cancer, and yes, that affects the lives of her whole family. Sometimes they don’t react to their fear in brave or noble ways, but every piece of the story rings with truth. The ending had me in tears, but not for the reasons I expected. It affected me so deeply because of the way the emotions were beautifully earned by the characters and the intertwining threads of the story. This is not a sad book, not by a long shot – this is a story of hope and love and finding your place. Thyme’s story will stick with me for a long time.
COUNTING THYME is out now.