Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Yvonne Ventresca
For ages 13 and up
Sky Pony Press, 2014   ISBN: 978-1628736090

Just a few months ago, Lil was a happy, social teenager who loved to help out with community projects, she was an excellent student, had a boyfriend, and wore pretty, colorful clothes. Then one of her teachers assaulted her and Lil withdrew into herself. Now is does not really care about her grades, she is single, she avoids connecting with others and she deals with the trauma of her experience by stockpiling supplies just in case there is a disaster. This may seem like a bizarre thing to do, but Lil’s doctor has told her that her behavior is a coping mechanism. Victims of trauma often do things which “instill an increased sense of safety,” and in Lili’s case buying and storing nonperishable foods and other supplies makes her feel better.

Lil is going about her life as usual, wearing her black clothes, smoking, skipping classes, and spending time with her best friend Megs, when things start to change. A virulent form of the flu starts making people sick in Maryland, and then it starts appearing in other states. Lil begins to worry, which is what she always does when something threatening appears on the horizon. This time though, she is not the only one. Her father, who works in the infectious diseases field, is also starting to worry, as are other people in the medical community. The new flu strain is spreading so fast, and so many people who get the virus are dying.

Not long after the virus first surfaces, Lil’s mother goes on a business trip to Asia for several weeks. Then Lil’s father leaves for a weekend-long conference. The attendees at the conference are going to discuss strategies to address the spread of the new strain of the flu, and he therefore feels he has to go, even though he knows his daughter is struggling with her fears, and even though he wants to stay home to take care of her. Lil’s encourages him to go, knowing that his input is needed at the conference, but she is terrified all the same. She does her best to stay at home as much as possible, but she does let Megs convince her to go to a school event. Lil does not stay there long, by Megs does, and soon after Megs is struck down by the flu. Megs’ mother takes her daughter to the hospital, but Megs does not survive.

Without Megs around to talk to, Lil feels completely alone and terrified. People are falling sick all around her, and though they are trying to get home, her parents are stuck where they are, many miles away. Though she knows she should stay home, Lil goes for a walk and she hears a baby crying. When she investigates, she finds a baby on his own in a house with his dead mother. Though she is terrified of getting infected, Lil cleans the baby up, tries to contact his family members, and when this does not work she gathers up supplies and takes the baby home with her. She starts to wonder how many orphaned children are out there, helpless and terrified. Something has to be done about them surely.

With the help of a new friend called Jay, some of her classmates, and a group of retirees, Lil starts to do what she can to help others. The disease is everywhere, public services are overstretched and there are dangerous looters on the streets. Somehow Lil has to protect herself and the people she cares about.

This memorable novel explores the ways in which a young woman, who has felt like a victim for months, finds the strength to claw her way out of her own grief and fear during a terrible time. Lil’s struggles are compelling and sometimes painful, but her inner strength gives us hope that Lil will find a way to cope with the disaster that has engulfed her world.