The Girl Who Wasn’t There

Sourcebooks/Fire. Nov. 2020. 304p. pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781492698852.
Gr 7 Up–Kasia is a 15-year-old Polish girl who has chronic fatigue syndrome, otherwise known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), after a case of tonsillitis earlier in the year. Stuck in her room day after day, Kasia gazes out her window for glimpses of the outside world. However, when she sees what appears to be a kidnapping, she quickly calls the police and notices that she wasn’t the only one to witness a girl fleeing from the window in the house across the street. Only, there isn’t a young girl who lives across the street. There’s just a young couple and their baby. Or is there? Joelson’s writing is clear and easy to follow. While Kasia tries to remain optimistic about her health and strives to get better, she also knows her limits and realizes when she’s pushed herself too hard. Following Kasia through her experiences with ME allows for a unique perspective on what it’s like to deal with chronic illness. Joelson takes the time to go in depth on not only the symptoms of the illness but also how Kasia feels when these symptoms start to show. As the story develops, it is revealed that there are elements of human trafficking mixed in with the plot. The book is successful in highlighting serious themes, such as invisible illnesses and human trafficking, in a realistic manner.
VERDICT A great, fast-paced thriller for younger teens, this novel explores important real-world issues.

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