Ellie Haycock Is Totally Normal

Wednesday Bks. Mar. 2024. 304p. Tr $20. ISBN 9781250892164.
Gr 7 Up–Ellie and her mom are staying at Family Care Home, a residential house connected to the hospital, so that doctors can figure out why she can’t stop coughing. Hospital life is nothing new for Ellie. She was born with VACTERL syndrome, which causes a host of medical issues (one kidney and limb differences, for example). Leaving high school, her beloved speech and debate team, and her boyfriend Jack is difficult for Ellie—but at Family Care Home she reconnects with her friend Caitlin, who shares her diagnosis, and she makes some new friends, including cute Ryan. Ellie compartmentalizes her life; she never mixes hospital friends with friends from home, and she never discusses the reality of living with a disability with home friends. When her surgery doesn’t go as planned, her strategy backfires. Although the focus of this novel centers on Ellie navigating friendships (as well as sorting out her romantic feelings for Ryan and Jack), the tension debut author Schneider describes between Ellie and her mother is depicted in a profoundly honest way. Ellie’s mom blogs about Ellie’s medical challenges, and Ellie desperately wants her to stop, which begs the question: When you are a child with disabilities whose parent has devoted their life to caring and advocating for you, whose story is it? The understanding the two ultimately reach is authentic and moving.
VERDICT Ellie’s first-person narrative about navigating between hospital life and what she calls "real life" is compelling; it’s a story that needs to be told. Recommended.

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