The Plot: If you could change one moment in your life . . . That’s how Maggie feels. She wants to change one moment so that it doesn’t end with her boyfriend Joey dead, floating in the water below the cliff. Only thing is, she doesn’t remember what happened at the top of the cliff; she remembers agreeing to jump off the cliff into the cool water below, something Joey and her other friends have done countless times over countless summers. But after that, she remembers nothing.
So what is the one moment to change? Something at the top of the cliff? Earlier, when she agreed to jump? If they all hadn’t gone to the party the night before, would things have ended up differently?
The Good: Maggie and Joey are high school sweethearts about to finish up their junior year of high school. They are part of a tight knit group of friends that have been close since kindergarten: Maggie, Joey, Adam, Tanna, Shannon, Pete. The incident at the cliff happens at the beginning of One Moment. After that happens, after Joey dies, Maggie tries to figure out what happened, and why. She flashes back to her relationship with Joey and her friendships with the others. Up until Joey’s death, Maggie and her friends were living a golden life, a page out of “classic high school life in America, early 21st century.” Some casual drinking, but nothing serious; their lives were parties, concerts, dances.
Dances. When Maggie learns that Joey didn’t go home the night before he died, didn’t do what he told her he had done, she begins to look closer at all her memories. She begins to question things she didn’t question before. Like how Joey didn’t take her to homecoming because of his grandfather’s stroke. Or the time he was supposed to pick her up and never did. Other things, too. Maybe their relationship wasn’t as perfect as she thought. As One Moment progresses, Joey becomes more nuanced a character than how Maggie initially saw him. What, though, does this have to do with his death? What does this have to do with why Joey fell?
Part of why I liked One Moment is not just the story being told (the death of a friend, the impact that has on those around him, what led to his death and Maggie’s role in it, if any) but how it is told. It begins the afternoon Joey dies; we follow Joey and Maggie up the trail to the cliff, preparing to jump. It cuts out in the handful of minutes (or seconds) before Joey’s death, but, still, it shares with the reader more than Maggie initially remembers. From the start, the reader knows more than Maggie. The reader is supposed to be making connections and conclusions well before Maggie grasps it herself, because we have knowledge she has suppressed.
What I also liked about One Moment is how it addresses the things we do, and don’t; the things we say, and don’t; and the impact that has. Who we really are and who we pretend to be. While One Moment may appear to be a mystery (what happened to Joey), it’s really a classic coming of age as Maggie is forced to confront that the world is a complex place.
Alert for book clubs: this book inspired many great book club questions. What do they think of Maggie and Joey? About what happened at the top of the cliff? If these were their friends, how would they react, both after Joey’s death and after all the secrets were revealed?