Happy Tuesday, Reading Nook!
An absolutely gorgeous book releases today: Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills.
It's a book about illness and struggling with the understanding that your life can't always go the way that you want. But at the same time, Mills also shows just how devastating circumstances, can also help one ordinary girl reach extraodinary heights.
Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: March 3rd 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Format read: ARC via publisher
Erin Bailey's life changes forever when her mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. It's always just been Erin and Mom, so living without her is not an option. Life takes another turn when the cancer is linked to a rare gene mutation, and Erin must grapple with the decision of whether or not to have her own DNA tested. Her new outlets are flying lessons, where looking to the horizon calms her deepest fears, and her new friend Ashley, a girl she met in an online support group. But when a flash decision has Erin flying away to find her new friend, she embarks on a journey from the depths of despair to new love and a better understanding of the true meaning of beauty.
This thought-provoking story brings readers to the emotional brink, as they experience Erin's fear, frustration, and ultimately, her freedom.
I wanted to read Positively Beautiful, because I understand Erin. An endocrine disorder runs in my family, and it's a genetic flaw that has resulted in some family members having to take medicaton for the rest of their lives, while other family members have been lost to us completely. As strange as this may sound, I like reading books like Positively Beautiful, because it's a reminder that I'm not alone in the fight against a genetic foe.
However, I also wasn't sure if I wanted to read Positively Beautiful for those very reasons. I lost another family member in October to that endocrine disorder, so I was uncertain whether I would be up to the task of reliving those memories. But I decided to go for it, and I'm so glad I did. Because Wendy Mills gets the ups and downs of having to deal with a terminal illness, and shows it perfectly through Erin's journey.
When we first meet Erin, she's like every other teen. She's worried about grades; trying to decide if her crush likes her, and coping with the antics of the high school mean girl. But once her mother announces that her breast cancer has returned, Erin's thrown into a world of medical complications - made all the worse, when she realizes she's at risk for the same genetic mutation.
Mills does a wonderful job of starting off the book by showing Erin's evolution, as she goes from worrying about her daily life, to problems far beyond her control. While Erin holds it together as best as she can, Mills is careful to show those moments when Erin does feel like losing control - e.g making relationship mistakes, and not knowing how to support her mom.
While Erin does eventually find coping mechanisms by learning how to fly, and communicating with those who are experiencing similar health conditions on a message board, Mills smartly shows that the balancing act between school/medical/home is still a tenuous one. Like any teenager, Erin still has trouble fully processing her emotions, and it eventually culiminates in a very surprising action.
Though any reader can understand Erin's decision to take such a drastic action, Mills also very firmly shows, through the help of friends, begruding colleagues (Erin's flight instructor), and surprising new acquaintances that it's just not good to run away from the challenges of life. There are strong reminders that it's one's ability to face and conquer the most difficult of circumstances, and not run away from them, which makes people grow.
Outside of Erin's journey, Mills is thoughtful and respectful, but also doesn't sugarcoat just how devastating a terminal illness can be. She's very forthright at the pain that can be caused by treatment and recovery, and how sometimes, treatment's not going to be the magic balm to fix everything permanently.
Without giving spoilers away, I really appreciated the fact that things don't always end perfect for Erin or anyone in her life. It's realistic, and really shows just how much Erin and those in her life have overcome, and how stong they truly are. This is something that I think many of those who are in similar positions in real life, like myself, will appreciate.
Things to consider:
However, once we hit the crux of Erin and mother's medical challenges in Part 2 through Part 4, it was obvious that Wendy Mills was in her element. The story started coming out effortlessly, and with a confidence that wasn't necessarily there in Part 1.The only reason I'm mentioning this is because I want people to keep reading. If you feel like this isn't for you after the first part, don't give up. Wendy WILL blow you away.
But I'm so glad I did, because Wendy Mills absolutely gets it. She understands the ups and downs that a person experiences when they receive a medical diagnosis that changes their life forever, and the sheer strength and courage of conviction it takes to come back from such a diagnosis, and to continue living your life to the fullest.
I highly recommend Wendy's book for fans of contemporary fiction, but also for educators and parents who may be facing similar situations in their own lives. I genuinely believe that Wendy does such a thorough job of walking a reader through Erin's emotional process, and showing how she finds the courage to go on, and many readers in similar positions will relate.
About the author:
WENDY MILLS was born in Virginia and spent several years in North Carolina, but now lives with her family on the tropical island of Bokeelia, off the south-west coast of Florida where she spends her time writing and dodging hurricanes. She has published adult mysteries with Poisoned Pen Press, and Positively Beautiful is her first young adult novel.