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HALFWAY NORMAL
by Barbara Dee

HALFWAY NORMAL by Barbara Dee

Norah Levy is entering seventh grade after being away from school for two years, during which she spent time in and out of the hospital battling leukemia. Transitioning back to the “real world” is challenging—everyone in the seventh grade knows her as “The Girl Who.” She’s tired of being treated like she’s fragile; some students are even jealous of the attention she receives. It doesn’t help that her overprotective parents won’t allow her to participate in after-school or weekend activities with her friends. As she’s making the difficult shift from patient to student, Norah also deals with the everyday challenges of middle school: cliquey friends, crushes on boys, and skipping classes. Readers will empathize with Norah as she tries to rediscover her place amongst people who were her friends. When she is placed in eighth grade math and science (she got ahead during her private tutoring), she bonds with a boy named Griffin over books, Greek myths, and her drawing ability. Norah avoids talking about her cancer at school, so Griffin doesn’t know about her past. When keeping her secret becomes impossible, Norah has to find a way to share her story. She learns is that she has been forever changed by her life experiences—but that’s okay. VERDICT A powerful story about surviving and thriving after serious illness.–Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

And here's the Starred Kirkus:

Norah Levy is 12 and entering seventh grade, but she hasn't been in school for the past two years: she's been busy fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and now she's figuring out how to re-enter the "normal" world. Norah has difficulty making the transition from cancer patient to normal middle schooler. Everyone in her grade knows her as "The Girl Who," and Norah is tired of people treating her differently. She makes a new friend, Griffin, who shares her taste in books and mythical creatures. But she's doing everything in her power to avoid telling him about her cancer or talking about cancer with anyone at school. She doesn't even explain things to her best friend. Readers will feel with her as Norah struggles with how, when, and to whom she should tell her story—if at all. The moment that really sings is when Norah realizes that there are some life experiences that change you forever, and that's not always a bad thing. Dee, whose acknowledgments hint at family experience with childhood cancer, does an exceptional job accurately depicting Norah's struggles in a way that is translatable to those with varied understanding of illness. Norah and Griffin are white, but their school appears to be a fairly diverse one, mostly conveyed through naming conventions. A powerful story not only about illness, but about accepting yourself for who you are—no matter the experiences that shaped you.