Stay well soon by Penny Tangey
UQP, 2013. ISBN 9780702249945.
(Age: 11+) Warmly recommended. Cancer. Friendships. Hospital. Stevie would love to have a horse, but her family cannot afford one, especially now that Dad Ben has gone interstate for work, leaving Stevie and her mother to cope with her brother, Ryan, who is becoming increasingly ill. At first Ryan seems to take a lot of time off school, but when mum takes him to the doctor, she is angered by the lack of attention he receives. Finally she takes him to emergency where the lad is transferred to Melbourne to undergo a series of tests. So begins the round of hospital visits, with mum and Stevie driving to Melbourne, Stevie angry that she cannot stay at home. She thinks he is faking it, so finds the visits boring, until she meets Lara, also confined to the hospital, because she has cancer.
It is difficult to like Stevie at the start, she is selfish and unconcerned about her brother, but as the story progresses, she becomes a fascinating character. Her problems with her peers at school are well presented, and the growing relationship with Lara brings Stevie's attention to her brother's illness. It is only when Dad Ben returns, that she admits to him her fear of dying, after finding out that Lara is near death.
All readers will be swept along with Stevie's developing awareness of illness and death as she at first ignores all attempts to apprise her of the reason for Rhys' growing ill health. Attempts by friends and mothers of friends, mum and her friend, Ben, along with the hospital therapist, failed to make her aware, but her friend Lara, tells her bluntly that she has not long to live. This galavanises Stevie into action, she asks the girl to be her friend at her grade five class Grandparents and Friends Day, after going with her to meet her horse, Finnegan.
A story of acceptance of death and dying, humour abounds in the relationships Stevie has with her peers. The details of school life with all of its ups and downs between the children, along with the teacher, who inadvertently is a source of much glee, are finely described. The background of mum's friends and her own relationship with Ben, are very real, not overstated, but there when Stevie needs them to be. This is a wholly satisfying novel about cancer and its effects on one young girl.