Because you'll never meet me by Leah Thomas
Bloomsbury, 2015. ISBN: 9781408862629
(Age: 11+) Recommended for able readers. Themes: Disabilities; Coming of age; Genetic experimentation; Science fiction; Friendship; Bullying; Loneliness. In this well-written debut novel by Leah Thomas, the two central characters write to one another to overcome the isolation of their lives that are debilitated by unusual physical conditions. Ollie lives a virtual electricity-free existence with his mother, isolated from the community around him because of his 'allergy' to all things electrical (we discover later, that his condition influences him negatively, but that he impacts electrical devices too). He is quirky and honest, and makes an effort to be positive in all things; his life has always been in this non-electric bubble - no phones, television, internet, so effectively he is living a virtual-Amish lifestyle. Initially there is only one visitor - a medico-scientist who links him to another teen living in Germany, to whom he connects honestly via letters. The German teen, Moritz, was born with no eyes and yet is able to 'see' using echo-location, he also has a Pacemaker to overcome his cardio-myopathy. His angst and distress with his life is expressed honestly and with some pathos as he deals with a school bully and his social isolation. Ollie and Moritz will never meet . . . the electricity from the pace-maker would be mutually destructive and their differing perspectives of life are impacted by their culture and experience, so initially the 'friendship' appears to be completely one-sided.
When Ollie is visited by a local girl, Liz, whose friendship changes him, he shares the impact of her life and 'spark' into his life with Moritz. Tragedies happen for both boys, but eventually the history of some 'experimentation' that has created their unusual physical expressions becomes the focus of the book as Moritz reveals the drama of their shared history.
The circumstances of this book are not realistic, but the characters express real emotional responses to difficult circumstances, and their normal teenage concerns will connect with a young adult readership. Readers who enjoy John Green fiction will enjoy this book. It has light-hearted moments, and pathos, and although the circumstances are not real, it is easy to identify with the two lonely and isolated teens and empathise with their pain, but also to see that there is some hope for their future.