I received this book as an Advanced Reading Copy. It will be available for sale September 25, 2018.
Most of what I know about leprosy comes from the Bible. That might sound like the set-up for a joke but it’s true. Leprosy seems like one of those old-timey diseases that only people in Biblical times got. (Like how only people on the Oregon Trail get dysentery and only French dancers get consumption.) I do know that’s not true but it still doesn’t mean leprosy is very high on the list of Diseases I Worry About Catching.
In fact, when I saw the title of this young adult novel, I assumed the “teenage leper” part was metaphorical. It’s not. Our protagonist and narrator, Abby, indeed catches leprosy as a modern American teenager. Here Abby tells the story of how she went from a pretty, popular Texan high schooler to living in quarantine as a Hansen’s disease patient.
While the leprosy angle is definitely unique, at its heart this is a classic story. Popular teenager has it all together with a perfect plan for her life. Unexpected event throws a wrench in those plans and popular teenager discovers who her real friends are. Popular teenager has to hang out with unpopular people and learns a Valuable Lesson about Inner Beauty. I poke fun but none of that is a bad thing. It’s a classic story for a reason and Ashley Little brings a fresh take to it. Her voice as Abby is fun to read and she makes Abby likeable, even at the beginning when she isn’t such a great person. As Abby learns about her disease we learn too and Little does a good job of portraying a terrible disease accurately, tiptoeing on the line of disgust (shown through Abby’s own revulsion at what’s happening to her body) without being gratuitous. The disease does ravage Abby’s body in expected and unexpected ways and returning to health isn’t necessarily easy. Little also does a fine job of portraying teenage life – its dramas large and petty and the uncertainties that go along with being seventeen.
The book is a young adult novel and geared to teenage readers though I would recommend it for older teens due to language and some more mature content.