SICK GIRL SECRETS

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Sixteen-year-old Natalie has missed tons of school since her surgeries. Nobody at school knows about her diagnosis, but nobody can miss that much school without starting rumors. But though she wants to remain invisible and unnoticed, that will be impossible when she’s going from class to class in her new motorized wheelchair. Luckily Natalie has an unexpected ally in her quest to be a “normal” girl. After the school principal denies her the necessary accommodations, Natalie grits her teeth, hides her wheelchair every day, and pretends to be “normal.” It’s not until she meets Riley, a wheelchair-using classmate, that Natalie begins to be open to visibility. Her friendship with Riley has its ups and downs, as Riley, a passionate disability activist, doesn’t have much patience for Natalie’s internalized ableism. Fairly pedestrian verse does no harm to Natalie’s journey from self-loathing to enthusiastic and joyful action. The real villain to defeat isn’t the cartoonishly petty school administrator, it’s internalized shame. Natalie only mentions the skin color of non-White people, reinforcing the White default for her and other characters; Riley has brown skin.

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