Monday, August 31, 2015

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling: A Review and a Giveaway!

Sometimes titles of books are difficult to come up with. But when I consider, Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling (PenguinRandom, 2014) I think, Lucy Frank, this title is perfect. 



Written out of Ms. Frank's own battle with Crohn's disease, this novel-in-verse is simultaneously beautiful and earthy. The premise is simple and as alluded to by the title, focuses on two young women--as opposite in lifestyle, character, and background as you can imagine--who share a Crohn's disease diagnosis, as well as an hospital room. 

This is not exactly a book written in two-points-of-view, but then again, it is. As Ms. Frank explains before the novel commences, the line down the center of many pages represents the curtain separating the two hospital beds. No line means the curtain is open or that Chess, the main character, is no longer in the room. The reader is told that the verses on the left belong to Chess; those on the right are Shannon's. Although the reader discovers more about Chess' backstory and struggles, Shannon's history, pain, and family relationships are also gradually revealed. This format is a clever way of presenting this story. 

Like drips out of Chess' IV bag, the reader slowly begins to understand the events leading up to Chess' hospitalization. Although readers might guess that the date Chess had before she was taken to the ER culminated with sexual harassment or rape, the truth of a beautiful night which ended in disaster is slowly revealed. 

To show you how well this book is written, here are some segments. (Since I can't mimic the 2-columns of the book, I've put Shannon's words in blue.)
Bald-head doctor's voice too fast, too smooth, too jolly, hearty, way too close, drawing squiggly pictures of intestines as Mom nods and peppers him with questions I can't listen to.
I don't know this hard and tough language. Don't speak Disease.
And I am so tired,
I close my ears until he's gone,
and through the curtain Shannon mutters:
"Duh. I could've diagnosed her two days ago. You don't need to be a friggin; genius to know she's got Crohn's. Same as me. Crohn's. Inflammatory bowel--" 
"Excuse me?" 
C-words ricochet around my brain.
"You don't know me!You know nothing about me or my..."
My mouth runs screaming from the B-word.
"Mom. Could you see if this curtain closes any tighter?
"Fine with me.Who said I was even talking to you? I'm just saying it pisses me off, these turkeys talking about tough.They wouldn't know tough if it bit them on their flabby ass." (p. 73-4)

 ***********

And I whisper to the dark:
"I wish I could be just me. Without my body."
Then through the curtain,
so soft
I hardly know
it's her:
"Sometimes it helps if you imagine purring. One of those big old stripey-I'll just stand here on your pillow and keep this going all night long as you don't do something to annoy me-tomcats with a rumbling purr that quiets down your breath and helps your heart un-hurt.
"Anyway. That's what works for me sometimes." (p. 105-6)
 **********
Even if you've never faced a life-threatening illness, there's much to appreciate about this award-winning novel. I can understand why it won the 2011 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship and was picked as one of the Best Teen Friendship Books of 2014 by Kirkus.

But don't just take my word for it. View this trailer, and leave me a comment by 9 AM on September 3 to win this book. If you are new to my blog, please leave me your email address. If you start following my blog or share this on Facebook or Twitter, I'll enter your name twice--just tell me in your comment. If you don't win, buy this book for the teen reader in your life who feels as if she's battling a disease or situation which makes her feel scared and alone. 




This review was originally published on LitChat on August 18.

16 comments:

Deborah Allmand said...

Carol, such a great post about a serious disease. Many teens suffer from this condition. A very unique approach to writing also.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Deborah. Your name starts the list--twice!

Vijaya said...

Looks very interesting, Carol. Thanks for putting a spotlight on it.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Vitaya. You're in!

Linda A. said...

Carol,
I am amazed at how creative writers can be. This way of keeping characters straight is one I want to experience.

I'll share this post on FB. This title may be one others will want to try to win or purchase.

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Wow! Looks powerful. Such an interesting topic, too. This scene reminds me a bit of Ann Fay and Immogene in the polio hospital.

Enter me in the contest, Carol!

Rosi said...

This sounds like an extraordinary book. I hope I can get a chance to read it one day soon. Thanks for telling me about it.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks LInda, Joyce, and Rosi. Yes, it is an amazing book and yes, Joyce this is similar to Ann Fay and Immogene. I want all of you to have the chance to read it!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Yes, yes, yes, please enter me, and I'm off to twitter! Sounds like a 'must read' book for sure!

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in twice. thanks, LInda P!

Natasha Avilés Torres said...

I just looked this up on goodreads and it sounds so interesting. I would love to be entered in the giveaway!

Carol Baldwin said...

Natasha,
I am happy to enter your name in the contest. Please leave me your email address in case you win!

Elena said...

Such a creative format! A great review.
While I appreciate the give-away, I'd like to opt out and allow the enthusiastic contenders above a better chance to win the book:)

Carol Baldwin said...

So sweet of you, Elena. I hope you get a chance to read it and thanks for leaving a comment!

kburkin said...

Thank you Carol for introducing me to Ms. Frank's TWO GIRLS STARING AT THE CEILING. The point of view and the way she differenciates between them is quite powerful. Such an important disease to be discussed! Great book trailer as well!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathleen. You would enjoy this book for sure!