Published in 2019 by UQP Books
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade Contemporary Fiction
Page Count: 229
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Sypnosis from Goodreads:
MIDDLE GRADE/YA FICTION
I’ve decided to stop being me. Finito. Game over. Access denied.
When thirteen-year-old Samantha moves to a new town, she decides to reinvent herself. She wants to be called SJ now. She’s going to be cool and mysterious. But above all, she’s going to be healthy.
SJ suffers from chronic eczema and allergies – she’s sick of doctors’ appointments and tests, sick of itchiness and pain, sick of looking different, feeling different. All SJ wants is to be ‘normal.’ She’ll do whatever it takes to keep her illness a secret. After all, would new friend Livvy or cute boy Sam still want to hang out with her if they knew the truth?
A heartfelt tale about courage, self-acceptance and the power of friendship.
Review copy provided by UQP books in exchange for an honest review- all thoughts are my own.
This was honestly just such a heartfelt, raw and emotional read – I felt like I was actually living as the main character, Samantha, or SJ, as she’s determined to reinvent herself as.
I totally didn’t judge her for wanting to keep her eczema and allergies a secret – they’re not fun, having to hide your own skin for fear of being shunned and laughed at for one’s flaky and red skin- but it’s hard sometimes, one has an itch, you can try and distract oneself from it, but that want, no need, to scratch just overpowers one sometimes and you just gotta itch that scratch! I myself relate, though I admit I’m definitely better than what I was, scratch wise- but yet, when I was reading this book, I felt completely projected into Samantha’s soul, her inner thoughts, as she went through not great patches of allergies and eczema, ‘I’m ugly,’ and ‘unnatural’, my heart just hurt for her so much! I just wanted to leap inside the pages and give her a huge hug!
I really love the growth that Samantha went through during the different points in this book – at the start, she’s feeling considerably lonely after moving away from her home to another country town (extra points that this book has a South Australian setting! Allayne is a local author, so all the more reasons to support this book and her!) and Samantha is hell bent on being recognised as someone cool at her new school – she’ll make friends and they won’t be aware of what she suffers through, she hopes. I just wanted to tell her though, you’re an absolute treasure of a girl (she’s 13, the poor love), and you can be cool, and you are!
Does everything go smoothly for SJ during her new term at school? Will she be able to reinvent herself? Well, you’ll just have to pick up the book and find out *wink wink*.
No but in all earnest, there’s so much heart in this book – the relationship between Samantha and her brothers, who I think are slightly too young to fully understand what Samantha is going through – and her parents, her Dad in his chocolate loving ways, and her mother, who constantly worries about Samantha – as one would, of course, but worrying is often done out of love, in my opinion – as Samantha learns too. Of course her own mother would be affected by what she sees her daughter go through, the panic that she would go through at having to promptly get her daughter to a Hospital or Doctor’s, after a severe reaction- which SJ definitely has during this book – and the way they’re depicted just is so well done- its so rare that I come across characters that suffer from allergies and eczema, it’s amazing and heartfelt that Allayne Webster has poured so much of her soul into this book, I could feel every aspect of it! It’s a true credit to how amazing an author she is, I’ll never not sing her praise!
I also adore the friendships in this novel, that Samantha makes with Livvy (there’s such a gorgeous scene between Samantha herself and Livvy’s mum, it’s so heartfelt seeing the two open up to one another, well, at any rate, seeing Samantha talk so openly, seeing how Livvy’s mum struggles too). There’s also a very special bond that surfaces between Samantha and another girl that is in Hospital, it was so precious! I feel like Samantha’s story, and in a sense, Allayne’s, will stay with me for a long long time and I’ll be telling everyone about how amazing and essential this book is!