Review: Sick Bay by Nova Weetman

Earlier this year the Children's Book Council of Australia named Sick Bay as a Notable Book and it is not difficult to see why. Sick Bay is a powerful story of two girls who are facing some powerful challenges.

Meg and Riley are two very different girls in their final year of primary school. Meg is a lonely kid who doesn't really fit in. She's also going through some pretty heavy duty stuff at home. Her dad passed away a year ago, and now her mum doesn't really leave the house. They don't have much money and that's proving to be a huge problem as Meg has few clothes that fit, and she's even had to start wearing her slippers to school, which is turning her into even more of an outcast. Her only refuges are books and the school sick bay, where the teachers sometimes sneak her food.

One day Riley, a student from a different year six class stumbles inside the sick bay. Riley hasn't been at the school for long, but she's already become a part of the popular group, run by year six mean girl Lina. Riley is also struggling to come to terms with the fact that she's been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This means a lot of huge dietary and lifestyle changes. It also means putting up with her overprotective mother, and a complete lack of understanding from Lina and the others about what it means to be a diabetic. 

There is no way that Riley and Meg could become friends in the school yard. But maybe, just maybe, each is the friend that the other needs.

This was a cute and entertaining read that nails the nature of female friendships at age twelve--the need to fit in with ones peers, the pain and loneliness of being an outcast and the rules that come with being in a coveted position in the popular crowd. At the same time, it deals with serious topics such as grief and living with a serious illness that will require lifelong medical treatment. The author handles the subject matter carefully and realistically, but in such a way that it will not overwhelm the target audience. Some of the side characters are quite interesting, I loved Meg's crazy aunt who ran the local laundromat, and Lina was certainly a spoiled and formidable foe (imagine a twelve year old having a sleepover party at a luxury hotel!) 

Overall an excellent read. Recommended.

This book was read for the Aussie Author Challenge 2020


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