Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses

Quirk. Jan. 2021. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781683692348.
Gr 7 Up–A college student with Lyme disease and a werewolf become friends through an online support group. Priya was on the pre-med fast-track when she contracted Lyme disease. Now she spends all day laying in bed and scrolling Tumblr while her Indian American family hovers. Her one bright spot is her online friend Brigid and the chronic illness support group that they joined together. When Priya meets Brigid, who is of Irish descent, in real life, she discovers that her friend’s “illness” is lycanthropy. This book perfectly captures what it feels like to be chronically ill: How good days and flare-ups feel like they’ll last forever, how needing familial help extends your childhood, and even the deep depression you feel when you realize that things may never get better. O’Neal adeptly mixes the magical with the realistic. Priya and Brigid’s support group spans a variety of races, sexualities, and gender identities without feeling as if the author is checking off boxes. Although the novel could be enjoyed without knowledge of Tumblr, in a few years the references to in-jokes will be either unintelligible or extremely dated. This is appropriate for middle schoolers, even though the age of the protagonist may resonate more with older teens.
VERDICT A must-read for anyone with a chronic illness or who loves someone with a chronic illness. A good choice for YA collections.

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