Review Blog

Jun 20 2019

Sick Bay by Nova Weetman

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UQP, 2019. ISBN: 9780702260322.
(Age: 10-14) Highly recommended. Themes: Friendship; Sickness; Diabetes; Fitting in; Grief and Depression. Nova Weetman has written another delightful friendship story that weaves a saga in and around the difficulties of Year 6; struggling with grief and depression in a family; and coping with the constant diligence of Diabetes Type 1. The Sick Bay is the location where Meg finds solace from the world, but also the place that feels more home than home since the death of her father and the slide into deep depression for her mother. Meg is constantly hungry and needs to cope with far more than just school. Her only friend is her brown paper bag - ready to be used in case of a panic attack. School is mercilessly unkind to her, but Lina - the 'queen bee' of the 'cool' girls seems to be the unkindest of all. Dash is a regular visitor to Sick Bay because of his asthma, but it is new girl Riley who creates waves for Meg. Riley is coping with her own dilemmas as she is trying hard to be independent and yet fit in, but her diabetes means that she is either misunderstood by her peers or smothered by her mother's concern. The connection between these two girls seems unlikely at first as Riley has become one of Lina's sidekicks, but slowly Riley finds more in the Sick Bay than just a place to take her blood sugar readings. The girls become more than just Sick Bay refugees and understanding grows.
School based drama and friendship difficulties are part of the life of most year 6 students, but the success of this book is that there are layers of difficulties for the central characters that most kids would never even consider. Creating empathy and understanding will be the result for readers of this book. The book is written from the perspectives of Meg and Riley in alternating chapters, and so we hear their inner dialogue and concerns. There were moments when I was almost brought to tears as I considered how difficult their lives had become, and although adult intervention seemed distant (it was there, but understated) this is probably reflective of how the young see their lives.
Carolyn Hull

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