Cover Image: Sick Girl Secrets

Sick Girl Secrets

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Member Reviews

This was an unexpected emotional ride. It is an ode to all the intensity related to chronic pain and especially illness. I liked how it showed the different aspects of meeting with doctors and dealing with parents as a sick kid. The disappointment of not getting better 
The accepting and beginning to emotionally grapple with it all. Perfect for people with conditions like EDS and gastroparesis!
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A beautifully written novel in verse for teens and adults alike. SICK GIRL SECRETS sheds light on disabilities in a beautiful and thought-provoking way. Recommended for teens and adults who struggle with disabilities, but also those who don't who are looking for a thought-provoking and short read.
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Hi-lo verse novel about a young girl with an illness that makes it difficult for her to get around independently. Natalie returns to school after being out sick for an extended period of time and is embarrassed to admit the truth about her illness. She hides her wheelchair and tries to act "normal", but that leads to painful consequences. Natalie meets Riley, a girl at her school who also uses a wheelchair and who teaches Natalie how to become a self-advocate. The book does a wonderful job discussing disability awareness in a way that isn't preachy, and it would make a good addition to a middle or high school classroom library. My only complaint is that I found the reprehensible behavior of the school principal, Mr. Wilson, unbelievable.  I would hope a school official who behaved as he did - actively discriminating against students with disabilities - would never rise to his position of authority in today's society.
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Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of Sick Girl Secrets in exchange for an honest review.

This was really well done! Sick Girl Secrets examines both self-image and ableism after our protagonist returns to school now needing a wheelchair to get around and I think it does a really good job on both fronts. It's also told in verse and a hi-lo book meaning it's short, high interest, and doesn't require a high reading level to enjoy which means it's accessible for a lot of audiences.

Honestly the only reason I'm not giving this a higher rating is because it was so short which isn't a complaint. I knew going in this was going to be a quick read and that it naturally wouldn't be able to impact me as much as longer ones but I think it tells its story wonderfully.
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Sick Girl Secrets
by Anna Russell
West 44 Books 
 Literary Fiction  |  Poetry  |  Teens & YA 
Pub Date 01 Oct 2021

I am reviewing a copy of Sick Girl Secrets through West 44 Books and Netgalley:

Sometimes in High School you just want to be invisible.  But for Natalie being invisible isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  She has a disability that causes chaos to her body on the inside, but leaves her unmarked on the outside. She's learned to hide her pain so well that you would never guess she's not the same Natalie as she was before she got sick. 

But after having Surgery Natalie, must return to school using a wheelchair.  Now, Natalie has to decide if the painful consequences of pretending to be healthy are worth keeping the last of her sick girl secrets.

I give Sick Girl Secrets five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!
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I was drawn to this title as someone who’s grown up with a severe physical disability. I’m always interested in reading books featuring characters with health issues and there seem to be an increasing number being published but many feature characters who have cancer. While this is still relatable and needed, it doesn’t seem as common for the character to have a mobility disability. Or a condition involving chronic pain. That’s where Sick Girl Secrets comes into play. The book is written from the perspective of Natalie, a teen diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I will admit that it took a little bit for me to get into it because of the style / format.  Once I got used to the unique spacing of words and sometimes letters I got into the story. I could relate to some of the things she felt. I was a little bummed that the book ended when it did because I want to know more about how everything worked out but maybe it’s still a work in progress. 

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about what it’s like living a with a disability and/or chronic pain disorder, The book touches on so many important and relevant themes- disability awareness and rights, social justice issues, advocacy, and most importantly: self-acceptance.
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trigger warning
<spoiler> ableism, chronic illnesses </spoiler>

Natalie rejoins school, and has to come to terms with being a wheelchair user.

Fair warning, this is going to be very personal.

This ya novel in verse made me cry. I am in the process of getting diagnosed with EDS, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, the illness the protagonist in this book has, and I felt <i>seen</i> as I have rarely before, if ever.
You don't learn general knowledge stuff about the illness, like that it's genetic, that it is not treatable at the moment, there are only ways to manage pain. It is more about what it means to live with EDS or chronic pain in general. That you might look normal and able and fit sometimes, but always have to plan ahead because there are things you simply cannot do, and that seemingly everyday events are different for you. Since this is set in highschool, prom plays a part, and the difficulty of finding clothes when changing hurts, or the inability of dancing the whole evening despite being young.

I liked that it is shown that there are better times and worse times. Ups and downs, downs meaning medical appointements en masse, and how different people with disabilities are. The focus is clearly on being people with disabilities, not on the disabilities themselves.

This might be one of those cases in which I will purchase a copy of an arc later on, to have it fully in my life and to be able to just go and grab it when needed. 

The arc was provided by the publisher.
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I really enjoy books written in prose and this one was very good. My only issue was that I didn’t feel like the book had a conclusion. It seemed to build up to a big decision and it would have been better (in my opinion) if I could have seen the action progress and get completed.
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An extremely moving, impactful, and accessible book for both teens and adults. It is beautifully written with passages that any reader could relate to and it would be an excellent choice for a teen reading group. It hits you in your heart. Recommended for just about anyone.
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Sick Girl Secrets by Anna Russell is the first Hi Lo book that I have read, and I came away with the benefit of having had a truly enriching experience.  Hi Lo refers to a high interest topic geared toward a lower reading age, and I was completely gripped by the richness and depth of a complete story told in beautifully flowing verse.

Natalie suffers from a connective tissue disorder and, following surgery, returns to school in a wheelchair.  She endures chronic, debilitating pain that is not outwardly apparent, and must learn to negotiate her new reality of living as a differently abled person.  Meeting Riley, another wheelchair-bound student, helps Natalie to feel more visible and less alone, and their shared story is both enlightening and empowering.  I look forward to reading more of this emerging genre in the future.  Recommended.

Many thanks to NetGalley and West 44 Books for an ARC.
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I have read this type of Hi Lo book before and truly enjoy them, in fact if you want a short read, or a book to get you out of a “reading rut” then I highly recommend them. Hi Lo stands for High Interest, Lower reading age. I think it is great that there are books to encourage those who perhaps don’t read as much or didn’t get the love of reading whilst younger. These books are also quite short, so you are not committing to reading a really long, involved, meandering read. The cover of this book quite appealing and could well be a scene from within the book where the main character in the book hides her wheelchair.

The main character is called Natalie and she has EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) which is a connective tissue disorder, which I can totally identify with as I have this disorder amongst other health/medical issues. Natalie can walk, and function like all the other teens at school but she is becoming so tired with pushing her body to it’s limits and beyond that it soon becomes apparent she cannot continue living the way she has been. Natalie needs a wheelchair, which will save some of her strength and “spoons” to use on doing other things. I won’t go into the “Spoon’s theory” as it is explained so eloquently by the character of Riley in the book. Natalie hates the thought of being “different” in any way so going to school and using a wheelchair is a big thing to her, even though she knows it is for her own good, health and wellbeing. However, Natalie is embarrassed and sneakily begins to hide her wheelchair, continuing to push her body to its limits. 

The book shows how hard it is for someone with a disability, whether it be an invisible one or one that is clearly seen. There is only one other girl in the same school as Natalie that uses a wheelchair called Riley. Riley tries to befriend Natalie, help her come to terms with using her wheelchair, and get over her embarrassment, explaining it is not those with the disability that is the problem but those who choose to stare and refuse to adapt to accommodate them. 
Though the book is about teenagers I could definitely identify with people, shops etc not being accessible enough. I also understood the reluctance of people to make adaptations for you when you are ill. The way friends disappear, even family members stop inviting you places when you have to turn them down as you are constantly dealing with fatigue from pushing your body to try and keep up with those around you. I think the book gives a very realistic view of how schools and colleges etc fail to help those with disabilities, I can remember printing off pages and pages of information, first telephoning my daughter’s school and then her college to explain her medical conditions and requirements for them to agree on the phone to only not follow through for my daughter. It really is frustrating as someone with invisible illness and as the mother of someone with them. I can also recognise the issues around wheelchairs as my mum has to use one. The way people tower over her to talk to her or ignore and speak to me, as well as walking straight in front of the wheelchair, standing in the way. And all that is before the problems of getting in and out of places with the wheelchair.

I enjoyed this totally frank view on how you are treat when you have a disability and want to truly thank this author for writing this book and in doing so raising awareness for EDS, Wheelchair users and those with disabilities. I should also add that the “spoon theory” is explained perfectly too.
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This review is a bit different to my usual ones but that’s because i don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about a book before. 

‘Sick girl secrets’ follows Natalie, a teenage girl with EDS, as she starts attending school again only this time in a wheelchair. And it follows her as she faces many obstacles put in place by her ableist head teacher, and as she makes a new friend along the way. And the overall message is about why disabled people should love themselves & deserve equal rights. 

It was so beautiful and I related so much to the struggles, particularly to Riley. It was like my high school experience was being described back to me and it made me quite emotional. 

I ended up being homeschooled for 4 years due to my school not being wheelchair accessible, and when we approached them about it they said if I can’t be bothered walking then I should go to another school; it wasn’t their problem. They also failed to give me a home education so I was forced to teach myself from revision guides. The main reason I’m sharing this is incase any non-disabled people read the book and think it’s far-fetched. But if anything, it barely shows the surface of ableism that disabled people & spooners face on a daily basis. 

The only reason I’m giving it 4 stars is because the plot didn’t advance much & I found Natalie annoying at times. But I think it was intended to be like that as her views were pointed out to be ableist too, hence why I didn’t like them. 

But thank you so much to the author for writing this. I’ve never seen a book mention EDS before or even reference the online chronic illness community, despite how it vital it is to many of us in it.
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Thank you NetGalley and West 44 books for providing me an arc of this book in exchange for a honest review.

Sick Girl Secrets is a poetry novel which revolves around a character named ‘Natalie’ who has to now use a wheel chair to go to school due to her disability. What is worse is that the school principal, a ignorant stupid prick isn’t helping in anyway. He demands so many things that she can only dream of having and that is where the poem revolves around. I really liked the story line, how it revolved and the way message it conveyed, just about everything but it didn’t give me ‘poetry’ vibes which I was looking forward to in this book.

It was just like
Words arranged
Like this, its beauty
Depicted in a poem format
Free verse poems are
The light to your soul
But at least they give off
Radiance of poetry
What is given here?

This was my only problem with the whole book and I just want to know one thing that happens at the end of the book. Do they succeed? Do all the spoonies succeed? Spoonies are all the disabled people and a spoon is like an ounce of your energy. Sick girl secrets shows how much there is a difference between a ‘normal’ person and a disabled person. But you see one common thing between the ‘normal person’ and ‘disabled person’, they are both ‘person’ (in this case, people) no matter what the adjective is. Treat them like a human being. They are just like you, me, she, he, they, it.

But something felt off in the whole book. Like some important key is missing. I couldn’t connect with this book and normally poetry connects with my soul. It and I are one but I don’t know why it couldn’t here. But I will just say this one thing. You will not be as disappointed (I hope not) with this book. It is really good and I request y’all that if you ever get the chance do read it. It’s a quick read and it wont take much of your time. I was satisfied even though there was something missing. This is one good book and the poet/author’s writing skills are okay too but I wouldn’t say the same thing about the poetry. It’s worth reading and is satisfactory, if that’s what you wanted.
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It’s lovely to finally read something close to how I feel. I found the writing style interesting but easy to read, it’s also nice to read something smaller than 300 pages ! I wish There was a more concrete ending with the principle but it would have been 300 pages by then and it’s thought, do you tell a realistic ending or a positive hopeful one. But it was nice to read something that gets how I feel. #DisabilityPrideMonth 
Will be adding to my disabled/neurodivergent/chronically ill writers blog post at the end of the month :)
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Sick Girl Secrets by Anna Russel in simplest terms is about a girl with a disability. The truth however is this novel in verse is so much more than that!  Natalie has a disease that causes her muscles to be very loose and tire easily. It is the type of disease that gets worse over time so up until this time she has been able to walk but after a recent surgery walking has become way too painful so her doctors approve her for a power wheelchair.

Unfortunately, being that this is high school, after all, Natalie worries about what other students will think. The principal of her school doesn’t help the situation either as he has a very black and white idea of what constitutes a disability and figures if she is still able to walk that means she really isn’t disabled right?

I absolutely LOVED this novel! Natalie and I have many things in common.  We both use wheelchairs, we both have severe chronic pain issues, and we both have to contend with other people’s perceptions and judgments about disability to name a few.  For example, when it came to her principal equating her need for the reasonable accommodation of a laptop as her being lazy or wanting to surf the web or check her email during class. I also had to use a laptop to take notes in school because of severe osteoarthritis in my fingers. 

I think that both those with disabilities and those without them should read this book. Those with them so that they can feel less alone. Having a disability can be very isolating especially when your young so reading about someone who also struggles can help with that. It helps those without disabilities understand more of our experience and that there are many different types of disability and even if someone looks physically okay does not mean that there is not a struggle going on inside.
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I received this book courtesy of NetGalley and West 44 Books in return for an honest review. The book has been written in a unique manner and is a very quick read. It takes you through what a disabled person faces each day. Accusations, disbelieving faces, unwanted attention. I could somewhat relate with Nat, even though I am not disabled. Her feelings and emotions were raw and honest, as they should be, considering that the author has been through some of this herself. I will tell you that some people might not like this book or understand the different writing style, but I found it very interesting. In terms of reading level, young readers may not understand it, but beginners will. The language is simple yet powerful, and I think this could be a good book for teenagers. I'll also mention that I absolutely adore the cover art. The ending was meaningful and beautifully wrapped up. So if you are ready to be a little open and try some new writing, you should definitely consider reading this book.
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Thank you to NetGalley and West 44 Books for an advanced electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Natalie thinks of herself as "before" and "after" - the defining moment being the decline of her physical health and eventual surgery. When the doctor says that she can begin to adjust to go back to school, Natalie must learn to deal with the invisibility of her illness and the visibility of her wheelchair.

Though this book isn't published until October, I'm so glad I read it early. July is Disability Pride month, and this book gets it. The main character struggles with being disabled/a person with disability (her preference for language wasn't identified), and what that struggle can look like, especially at the impressionable high school age. This book touched on the issue of inaccessibility and spoon theory, which I don't hear talked about often and appreciated reading a little bit about. Written in verse, there is no excuse for not having the time to read this one.
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I'm DNFing at 1/3 of the way through. It's a short book. I'm not loving the writing style. I was surprised for the writing to be so bland for a book in verse.
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Natalie’s life changes dramatically when after a surgery she must use a wheelchair. And all this in front of her colleagues at school. 
The author needs us to acknowledge that for the persons having this kind of challenges accessibility solves almost everything. If they had access, they would go to school, study, college, try to get hired. Unfortunately, accessibility stops this whole process. Natalie is stigmatized not only by her previous friends but by the school director as well.
I will not want to give spoilers, but the main character is the destiny of a winner, a child who manages to stand up for herself and is pushed by life to take care of the others not only by herself. 
The below quote from the book I guess that speaks more than any resume:
“Like the spoon theory, Riley says. (…) What’s that ?/ People like us – sick and disabled -  use it to describe our energy levels. So let’s say we all start with 10 spoons – that’s our energy -every day. Most people might use one point of energy, one spoon, for exercising, one for working, cleaning …. That leaves them with seven spoons. That’s pretty good energy, right? / I nod./ They can rest or go to sleep and get some of those spoons back. They might feel a little tired, but the energy restores. (…) Now for people like us…Getting out of bed takes a spoon. (…)One night of sleep, if it’s good, might bring back half the spoons you started with. (…) We’re spoonies, just trying to save our energy. Just trying to make it through. ”
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This book written in verse was impactful and written beautifully! I really enjoyed reading this book in verse about a girl who has to come to terms with being disabled and how others opinions could negatively impact someone's mindset when they are bound to a wheelchair. I feel like this book could have been written towards younger teenagers instead of making the main character sixteen years old and going to prom. If the book would have been strictly written about a thirteen year old girl like most of the book was focused on it would have been more suited for the main character in my opinion. Regardless of that though, I flew through it and overall really enjoyed reading it.
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