Abby Furlowe is determined that this will be her year. She’ll make the cheerleading team again—she’d better, all her plans for a future as an actor hinge on a prestigious cheerleading scholarship—enjoy parties with her two besties and continue to rule the school as one of the most beautiful and popular girls. Maybe even be named prom queen!
She doesn’t have time for her brother Dean and his secret life and drama. She doesn’t have time for her boyfriend’s sudden distance or the losers at school. And she certainly doesn’t have time for the weird numbness and spots that keep showing up on her skin. Until the numbness gets worse and she takes a fall while cheering, waking up to find her whole life has changed.
That weird numbness means she has Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy, and the diagnosis is now all Abby has time for. She’ll have to go away to a treatment center if she’s to get better—or have any hope of reclaiming her old life. But time away from everything gives Abby plenty of time to think, and she comes to realize what a horrible person she is. But who she was isn’t the person she has to be now, and some of the new people she meets at the treatment center help her come to terms with her new reality.
Based on the title, I sort of thought this book would be a funny read about a girl who ends up a social outcast, not a person who actually had the disease. It wasn’t. At all. For most of the book, Abby is a horrible person. Totally unlikable. Her mean-girl persona really made me want to put the book down, but she had a few bright spots, like saving her brother’s life, so I kept reading. Abby learns a lot, about the power of words, about family, about being a better person.
Ashley Little is an award-winning author. Confessions of a Teenage Leper is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.)
Carl Louis Feldman was once a famous photographer who took eerie pictures. Then he was charged with the murder of a young woman, acquitted, and disappeared from the public eye. Now he’s in a halfway house for those with dementia and he doesn’t remember killing anyone. Or so he claims.
But his daughter is visiting him, and she doesn’t believe him. She’s planning to take him on a trip to see if she can jog his memory. Except she’s not really his daughter.
She’s spent years getting ready for this day. Years looking for clues to her sister Rachel’s disappearance, even after the cops gave up. Years of painstaking research finding Carl and tracking him down. Years of training to see to it that he doesn’t come back from their little trip. Is Carl telling the truth, or are they both lying? The middle of the Texas wilderness is no place to be with a serial killer.
You know that little thrill you get when you read a book and it’s set someplace you’re familiar with? I got that on the first page of this book, with the mention of the cemetery in Weatherford, Texas and Mary Martin’s grave. I grew up in Weatherford, after all, so I was hooked from that sentence.
But I stayed hooked throughout the book by the twists and turns the story kept taking, and my curiosity to find out what was going to happen. This is an accurate look at dementia—and the way some dementia patients are sometimes self-aware enough to pretend they don’t remember things (I saw my grandmother do that). It’s an unsettling, creepy read, but the characters are intriguing. And how can you beat Texas as a setting? (You can’t.) Those pictures of the little twin girls were also creepy enough for me to keep reading.
Julia Heaberlin grew up in Texas before becoming a journalist, then an international bestselling author. Paper Ghosts is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Random House/Ballantine Books in exchange for an honest review.)