Seventeen-year-old Abby feels like life is going well until a red patch on her leg refuses to clear up.
Abby’s life is on a pretty good trajectory until she discovers she has Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy. Suddenly, everything she thought was important—being a pretty, popular, naturally blonde cheerleader—is replaced by having to deal with erupting skin, numb feet, headaches, sore joints, and traveling away from her family to receive medical treatment. As her world unravels, however, her views on what’s important in life begin to change, and the loss of friends, cheerleading, and popularity begins to seem not that bad. The shame she feels at having Hansen’s disease becomes easier to understand as she learns about the long history of discrimination against Hansen’s patients. Unfortunately, Little (Niagara Motel, 2016, etc.) drives these self-discoveries home relentlessly, and the characters tend to feel more like symbols of thematic growth than actual people. Little weaves a wealth of interesting research into her descriptions of the disease and the treatment center, which grounds the tale in authenticity. A subplot involving Abby’s brother, Dean, and his coming to terms with being gay offers another interesting diversion. The book follows a white default.
An unusual twist on the typical sick teenager story. (Fiction. 15-18)