A novel explores the daily challenges a young girl with Tourette’s syndrome faces.
Twelve-year-old Isabella “Izzy” Palmer confronts more than the usual middle school social problems. Her goal: “I want to be like everybody else. I want to be normal.” But Izzy isn’t exactly normal. Her Tourette’s diagnosis means she needs to resist physical urges. She exhibits signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and, most embarrassingly, emits loud grunts or other noises. The neurological disorder makes her stand out at school and provides ample fodder for teasing. Her loyal friend Abbie helps her to feel more natural, but every day is a struggle (“Tourette Syndrome is not easy on anyone. Not on the person who has it, their family, or their friends”). Given an opportunity to try out for the school softball team, Izzy decides to attempt what seems so easy for other students but proves quite daunting for her. She tries to control her behavior and not give in to the extreme fatigue caused as a side effect of her medications. Her friends and parents help her practice her skills, and Coach Grant makes an honest effort to understand what accommodations might help Izzy. But Izzy gets discouraged and wonders if she would have more energy and play better by skipping her meds. It only takes a couple weeks for the symptoms to worsen to an excessive degree. Izzy learns a hard lesson: She has to reconcile her lifestyle with her meds. But she finds that success is possible with patience and practice. In her empathetic novel “dedicated to all children who dare to be different,” McLaughlin’s (Fireworks, 2017, etc.) teaching background is evident in how realistically she depicts the complicated middle school social structure and Izzy’s parents’ ongoing struggle to deal with the needs of a complicated tween. But the depth of Izzy’s world is also the tale’s flaw because it speaks to the middle school audience as if it were an adult fiction title bordering on self-help. The writing will likely appeal more to parents than middle school students. Still, the book is a particularly useful tool for support groups.
A work of fiction compassionately portrays an underrepresented disorder.