Kirkus Reviews QR Code
WE WERE NEVER HERE by Jennifer Gilmore


by Jennifer Gilmore

Pub Date: June 14th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-06-239360-9
Publisher: HarperTeen

After 16-year-old Lizzie doubles over at summer camp, she enters the hospital and a "horror movie" of pain, tests, and vulnerability.

After 13 days of tedium and poignant uncertainty, Lizzie learns she's suffering from ulcerative colitis, an inflamed colon, and will need to have her colon removed—and, afterward, to wear an ostomy bag. Her best distraction is Connor, a handsome hospital volunteer with a therapy dog and a secret. But once home, Lizzie suspects Connor has more secrets than she knows. Lizzie details her hospitalization and recovery with snark, self-reflection, and the occasional poetic phrase as the ordeal transforms her personality from "werewolf back to human," even "Wonder Woman," alienating her from her old friends. Lizzie's illness and search for a "girl group" of quirky friends are set to her eclectic taste in music; she'll have readers building playlists with songs ranging from Pink to the Beatles. Her persistent fear of her ostomy bag’s coming undone both symbolizes her frustrating on-and-off romance with the endlessly evasive Connor and sympathetically addresses the self-consciousness of sex and socializing when bowel functions are often considered embarrassing; her friends' support will reassure readers who deal with similar issues. Though capricious, the ending leaves Lizzie—and readers—on an optimistic note. Lizzie and Connor are white.

The romance is so-so, but the dual portrayal of friendship and adjustment to a rarely discussed condition is sensitive and insightful.

(Romance. 14-18)