Victoria “V” Sullivan is the weird girl at school and has chronic migraines due to a brain tumor. Sawyer Sutherland is the hotshot from the swim team. They have nothing in common, but when Sawyer, his mom, and little sister move into the downstairs apartment in V’s family’s old Victorian house things change. The two team up for a senior English project and slowly become friends, and then something more. But they each have secrets. V’s tumor may be growing, and Sawyer is hiding that he’s an adrenaline junkie and his mom’s alcoholism. Can the two learn to love each other as they without judgement, or will their secrets, and their illnesses, get the better of them.
I read this as part of my Disability and Chronic Illness Representation in Fiction research. You’ve heard me mention my migraines in the past. The fact that V has migraines attracted me to this one. Unlike V, I don’t have a brain tumor – although my NF can cause them. However, while I found the description of her pain and migraines pretty accurate, I found the brain tumor aspect a bit suspect. V’s mom died of a brain tumor two years before the start of the story and they were both diagnosed when V was eleven. Genetics don’t exactly work like that. It’s stated they used to live in an area where a chemical plant contaminated the area and that others got sick, but it’s not said with what. Typically, these types of contamination lead to the the same or linked illnesses. So that aspect didn’t seem very thought out and believable
I also didn’t like how accepting she was of her fate. The whole “my mom died of this, so I will, there’s no point in fighting it” mentality rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve had a dangerous tumor that nearly gave me a stroke, and when I was told it might kill me, well to say I laughed in the face of death, would be an understatement. Granted, I was 21 and not 17, but still. IT takes her the majority of the novel to realize that Sawyer and others are right, that she isn’t really living but waiting to die.
Sawyer and his mom suffer from addiction that he has to comes to terms with. I found this storyline much more believable and thought out. At the start, Sawyer has broken his arm due to his adrenaline addiction (he jumps off cliffs into water) and has begun to realize it may get him killed, but is in denial about his mom’s alcoholism. With the help of V and his sponsor, and the discovery of just how bad his mom’s alcoholism has gotten, he’s able to deal with the realization and remove himself and his little sister from a potentially dangerous situation.
Sawyer also has dyslexia so he has a hard time reading. It takes him the majority of the novel to read the diary of a girl from a TB hospital that Sawyer and V are using as research. We don’t see enough dyslexic characters, so it was nice to see it here.
If this hadn’t been for my research, I wouldn’t have read it. Or finished it. I had to slog through it. The whole love story aspect was just not for me. Not to mention I was lead to believe this would have a ghost story aspect and it didn’t. They researched ghosts, and V thought she saw ghosts, but their was no spookiness at all. Such a let down. I had to start skimming near the end just to finish it.
I will not be reading another by this author, and I hope she does better research the next time she decided to write about illness. Three Lightsabers.