If two people connect through symbiosis, what happens when one weakens?
Clover and Danny, both 10 and both white, have known each other since birth. They have an unmarred record in the statue game, closing their eyes and striking the same pose; he eats her pizza toppings because she only wants sauce and crust. They’re more than next-door best friends—Clover believes they’re literally symbiotic. Then Danny starts fainting and getting infections. Hospitalizations, specialists, and a long trek to diagnosis arc ensue. Danny has common variable immune deficiency, but it’s not identified until late. With Danny out of school, there’s nobody to fill in the paper outline of Clover in art class—a keen symbol of his absence and her need—so Clover uses her scientist’s heart and acute eye for detail to do a science project on Danny himself. She identifies something that actually improves his medical symptoms: her. There’s magic here—in her personal contribution to his wellness, in their stowaway adventure from Florida to a last-ditch clinic in Vermont, and in Haydu’s quietly superb prose. But Danny’s CVID is serious and worsening, and his improvement from Clover’s nearness is fading. Haydu doesn’t romanticize illness, but she provides comfort through art, science, magic, love, and a purple suitcase.
A sharp, clear-cut piece that knows life is beautiful and sickness isn’t. (Fiction. 10-13)