All Bernadette “Bernie” O’Brien, an underachieving, overweight 14-year-old, who happens to be blind, wants is an average share of happiness. Instead, her life is on a runaway roller coaster that can only plummet down. As she begins her freshman year at Desert Vista High School, Bernie yearns to win love from Jason, her sister’s football-star boyfriend. Instead, child-like Nick attaches himself to Bernie like acne. Then Bernie’s best friend, Leese, dumps her for more popular girls during the first week of school. Bernie keeps her head up and makes friends at the losers’ table–until Jason hits on one of those friends. Bernie’s health spirals downward, but she refuses to accept a diagnosis of kidney disease. When Leese falsely accuses a young teacher of abusing her, Bernie falters between the choice of regaining their friendship or saving the teacher’s career. Failed by those she idealizes, despising her own weaknesses, Bernie rejects her friends and family and veers toward depression. “A Roller Coaster Down” is a luminous, gently humorous story of failure and redemption, of the universal hunt for love and self-respect.