Sick Girl Secrets by Anna Russel in simplest terms is about a girl with a disability. The truth however is this novel in verse is so much more than that! Natalie has a disease that causes her muscles to be very loose and tire easily. It is the type of disease that gets worse over time so up until this time she has been able to walk but after a recent surgery walking has become way too painful so her doctors approve her for a power wheelchair.
Unfortunately, being that this is high school, after all, Natalie worries about what other students will think. The principal of her school doesn’t help the situation either as he has a very black and white idea of what constitutes a disability and figures if she is still able to walk that means she really isn’t disabled right?
I absolutely LOVED this novel! Natalie and I have many things in common. We both use wheelchairs, we both have severe chronic pain issues, and we both have to contend with other people’s perceptions and judgments about disability to name a few. For example, when it came to her principal equating her need for the reasonable accommodation of a laptop as her being lazy or wanting to surf the web or check her email during class. I also had to use a laptop to take notes in school because of severe osteoarthritis in my fingers.
I think that both those with disabilities and those without them should read this book. Those with them so that they can feel less alone. Having a disability can be very isolating especially when you are young so reading about someone who also struggles can help with that. It helps those without disabilities understand more of our experience and that there are many different types of disability and even if someone looks physically okay does not mean that there is not a struggle going on inside.