A teen fights to put her life back together after developing a painful chronic illness and secretly skipping school for six weeks.
Ricky lives in Philadelphia in her father’s one-room “Batch Pad,” sleeping on a lumpy “Sofa-Bed-From-Hell.” Her parents unilaterally decided she’d live there because Mom’s house, in another neighborhood, has three stories—and Ricky, as of four months ago, has juvenile arthritis. She has chronic pain—“dull and sharp,” often excruciating, her joints on fire. Her feet feel like she is walking on broken glass. So she bailed on school—the bullying didn’t help either—and, instead, waits each morning for Dad to leave, then crawls into his (non-sofa-)bed, desperate for sleep. Naturally, she’s caught. This justifiably furious kid who says “Fucking asshole!” to a teacher’s face launches “Operation Catch-Up-So-I-Can-Get-The-Hell-Out-Of-This-Crap-Ass-School”—in other words, somehow pass ninth grade. Ricky’s sharp, flowing, uninhibited voice makes this a page-turner. Her life improves: accessibility accommodations, a proper bed, agency (sometimes!), a new doctor, more treatment options. The ending’s a bit glossy, but Ricky’s pain and future aren’t romanticized. Ricky’s white and Jewish, and her family is middle-class; characters default to white, and brown skin and curly hair are sometimes exoticized.
Protagonists with chronic nonmalignant pain and illness are far too rare; this does the job. (Fiction. 12-16)