cover image Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling

Lucy Frank. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $19.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-307-97975-9

Two girls struggle with Crohn's disease in this moving verse novel from Frank (Lucky Stars). When Chessie winds up in the emergency room after a painful bout of stomach pain and an embarrassing "moment" with a crush, her immediate concern is living through her mortification. During her hospital stay, Chessie grapples not only with tubes up her nose, dietary restrictions, and mood-influencing steroids but also with the psychological effects of being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Her assertive hospital roommate, Shannon, who suffers from a more aggressive form of Crohn's, makes Chessie's diagnosis easier by cracking jokes and airing her grievances, indirectly encouraging Chessie to follow suit. Frank's decision to split the narrative vertically on the page (the middle line represents the curtain between Chessie and Shannon's beds) doesn't always pay off, sometimes distracting from rather than enhancing the verse. But the girls' anger and palpable fear ("How do you know who you are when you can't trust your own body?") contribute to a raw, unsentimental perspective on the fight to keep an illness from overpowering one's identity. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Aug.)