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--"
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,
I hardly know
"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.