If you were to briefly scan Carrie Mac’s Wikipedia page, you would find that she has earned several writing awards and prizes over the years, has written a book series specifically to cater to young adults who – despite a great interest in reading – find it difficult to easily do so, and couldn’t imagine writing a book entirely devoid of queer characters. After reading 10 Things I Can See from Here, I can say that none of this comes as a surprise.
Written from the perspective of sixteen year old Maeve, we’re taken into the mind and world of a girl riddled with severe anxiety and forced across the border from the US into Canada to spend six months with her dad, pregnant step-mother, and twin half-brothers. At least for the beginning of the book, the main plot point is very rightly focused on Maeve’s anxiety which constantly consumes her thoughts. For her, this mostly involves concerns about safety, often taking the shape of recitations of numerous statistics and being constantly unable to stop her mind from imagining the worst case scenario, as she does here:
“I didn’t want to call Dad again. If he was on his way, he shouldn’t pick up. He knew better, but he still talked on his cell while he drove, even though I told him not to. Every year over three thousand people died because of distracted driving. And that was just in the States. Not as bad as the one death every forty-eight minutes from drunk driving, but bad enough… Or what if he was looking at his phoe when I called and it was in his bag and he leaned over too far and lost control? What if he was in the hospital on life support and they couldn’t find a number to call because his cell phone had been destroyed in the crash and he’d forgotten his wallet at home again? What if he was all alone, with a tube down his throat and machines keeping him alive? Or maybe not. It could be even worse than that. What if he was dead? Dead.”
Maeve’s anxiety disorder continues to be something of a character in its own right throughout the book, and its presence offers a truly valuable glimpse into the thought processes of those struggling with anxiety. Whether you, like me, also suffer from an anxiety disorder and are only too able to relate to this kind of thinking, or you don’t, and are instead given an insightful opportunity to understand the workings of the minds of others, you would certainly find it interesting – and possibly cathartic – to step inside Maeve’s mind for a time.
We follow along with Maeve as she heads north to spend time with her father’s family. I found these characters deeply endearing, particularly her brothers who, at six years old, are full of differing but equally adorable quirks. Maeve’s step-mother is also lovable and entertaining in her insistence on having a home-birth, despite all of Maeve’s continual efforts to dissuade her. I grew to really enjoy them all and happily became engrossed in their lives.
Maeve also takes us along for a love story that is beautiful, tragic, and delightful all at the same time. Wrapped up in all the complications that an LGBTQ+ relationship involves, and existing in the context of Maeve’s anxiety and what that brings to a romantic relationship, I was rooting for them all the way through.
I should also mention that I felt it difficult to buy some other smaller parts of the story. For example, a mysterious event in Maeve’s past is repeatedly alluded to throughout the length of the text, and with each new mention one or two new details are sometimes shared, until the end when you finally learn what happened. While this is a perfectly common and sometimes useful storytelling technique, in this instance it felt so shamelessly clear that the reader was being strung along that it eventually became mildly irritating. In another instance Maeve becomes convinced of something that – to the reader – seems entirely unconvincing and, to be honest, felt somewhat forced. That being said, these are things that pass quickly, may well feel far from irritating to any other reader, and are overshadowed by the much more captivating and thoroughly enjoyable parts of the book.
Overall, I found myself happily zooming through this light and likable story by Carrie Mac, and you may very well find yourself doing the same.