Isabel has one rule: no dating.
–for the other person.
She’s got issues. She’s got secrets. She’s got rheumatoid arthritis.
But then she meets another sick kid.
He’s got a chronic illness Isabel’s never heard of, something she can’t even pronounce. He understands what it means to be sick. He understands her more than her healthy friends. He understands her more than her own father who’s a doctor.
He’s gorgeous, fun, and foul-mouthed. And totally into her.
Isabel has one rule: no dating.
It’s never felt better–
–to consider breaking that rule for him.
Warnings: medical emergency, ableism (called out in text)
This beautifully written romance between two sick kids is emotional, engaging and informative. Told from the perspective of Isabel and starting from the time she meets a boy, Sasha, the story goes through the initial stages of their relationship, from when they become friends and then fall in love. It is mainly a story of change, or more precisely adapting to change, and about finding someone who understands you at the most basic level. Isabel’s circle of people are mostly all healthy people, which is why she has complicated feelings about her illness and how much accommodations she can ask for. When she meets Sasha, she realizes how much more freeing it would be to ask (nay, demand) for what she needs, instead of making herself uncomfortable to keep others in their blissful bubble.
“I’m sick,” I say. “And I don’t wish that I wasn’t. And I don’t really care how uncomfortable that makes you anymore.”
Isabel writes a column for her school newspaper, wherein she asks people around her a question, and each chapter is bookended by a relevant questionnaire, which gives insight into both Isabel and the characters she is asking questions to. She has a supportive father and friends, but the problem is that while they are supportive, they don’t understand how the problem isn’t her illness, its the lack of accessibility. She has to constantly weigh plans with her friends against how much pain she might be in later, because they might guilt her into doing stuff that she feels too tired for, or too tired to explain. On the other hand, hanging out with Sasha is simpler – he understands her needs and vice versa, constantly checks on whether she is comfortable and both of them have an understanding about the others’ energy levels. Also there’s the fact that they can sympathize with each other how much healthy people frustrate them.
“Yes! You either have to be overcoming it or you have to be completely disconnected from it. God forbid it be an important part of your identity that you’re just living with. Why is that?”
“They think it’s completely ridiculous that a person can just…have a sick life and be fine with it. So they have to build this story around you kicking the illness’s ass. You can’t coexist with it. You can’t incorporate it into yourself. Because they don’t. So you can’t.”
Their romance develops from their friendship quite naturally, but Isabel is hesitant over whether she would be good enough in a relationship (and no, it isn’t because of her illness or his). They do have their share of relationship troubles – like their differing stances on school, her hesitance to use accessibility aids, the fact that their diagnoses were approached differently because of their gender – and they learn to communicate with each other about that. There’s also discussion about the adage that you shouldn’t change for someone else, there’s discussion about for a chronically ill person it is a part of their identity, there’s discussion about healthcare and the medical system (this one didn’t feel as organic as the others, though) and more, like ableism from the people you love and visible vs invisible illness. Also, bonus: it avoids so much cliches from other books about sick kids.
Finally, I feel this book would be a good resource for both sick and healthy teens, and also has a sweet romance to boot!
Is it diverse? Jewish main character with chronic illness (rheumatoid arthritis); love interest is bisexual, Jewish and chronically ill (Gaucher’s); diverse secondary characters, including queer characters and WoC
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Entangled Teen, via Edelweiss.
Other books by the author
Releases on November 5, 2019