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Miranda's Story: Degrees of Guilt    by Melody Carlson order for
Miranda's Story
by Melody Carlson
Order:  USA  Can
Tyndale, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Miranda Sanchez knows that Sammy James' death was her fault. After all, she hosted the party where it happened. Miranda was so drunk that she didn't notice what was going on, and when she got a clue, she refused to call 911 immediately. Although the police think she is somewhat to blame, they are pursuing other angles. Miranda's Story is one of three books in the Degrees of Guilt series. There is no suggested reading order, but I recommend starting with Kyra's Story, followed by either one of the other two. The books' website gives further information about the trial surrounding Sammy's death and provides completion of the story.

Miranda, Sammy, and his twin sister, Kyra, grew up together and have been friends since they were very young. Miranda knew Sammy was in love with her, but she really only thought of him as a friend. She often teased him about his straight-laced attitude and tried to cajole him into breaking free and partying a little more. Miranda's mother doesn't seem to have much time for her, and Miranda's grandmother suffers from Alzheimer's disease. After Sammy's death, Miranda moves into her grandmother's apartment in an attempt to get a handle on where her life is headed. She soon gets mixed up in things that spiral out of control.

Miranda is a girl who has always achieved success. She is a star athlete, gets excellent grades, and has many friends. During her senior year she decides that she needs to loosen up and become more fun, and this is where her troubles begin. Readers will relate to her story because most will have at one time gone through similar struggles. Frustrations with parents, beloved grandparents becoming ill, and wanting to have some fun amidst the pressures of high school all contribute to incredible stress and, sometimes, poor choices.

The Degrees of Guilt series is an interesting concept, giving three different sides to the death of Sammy James. I recommend it for groups who can use the books as a jumping off point for many discussions. There are no clear cut answers provided, because each character has a legitimate claim to some portion of the blame. As Miranda says, 'We must take our various consequences and accept our own responsibility for all our individual degrees of guilt.'

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