The Moth Girl

Putnam. Mar. 2022. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593109366.
Gr 9 Up–A strange incident at track practice causes Anna’s friend Smilla to observe, “You’re floating.” It’s a sign that Anna has a chronic illness—invented by the author (and explained in an afterword), whose novel explores permanent and life-threatening illness. Weekly hospital visits and blood work, discussions of pain management medications and their proper doses, and group therapy become the norm for Anna. She loathes talking with doctors about her symptoms, such as trembling limbs, fatigue, and a craving for sugar, because they reveal “all these ways my body [is] betraying me.” Anna must slow down—which means quitting the team and prioritizing her health over schoolwork—to survive. She feels alone, and that’s not far from the truth: Her parents, although steadfast, are preoccupied by the stress of taking care of her. Friends (who, like the protagonist, are white) either can’t face the gravity of Anna’s diagnosis or see it as a curiosity. Opening up to another sick teenager in her therapy group releases Anna from the hurt that her isolation and fear have caused. Next steps include embracing her art and repairing the relationship with Smilla; neither is a cure, but both help Anna remember who she is and who she still can be.
VERDICT A tenth grader’s sudden diagnosis of a fictitious condition gives readers an opportunity to see what it takes to manage a chronic illness; also recommended for readers seeking to understand living with a chronic condition—their own or someone close to them.

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