Girl in the Window — The Disability Thriller you didn’t know YA was missing
“No one sees me. I am a ghost. I am invisible.”
When Kasia, a teenage girl housebound with ME witnesses what appears to be an abduction from her bedroom window, she immediately calls the police. What follows is a remarkable story of mystery, intrigue, and resilience that will be familiar to anyone with a chronic illness, and everyone who’s ever wondered what goes on behind the locked doors on their street.
Kasia is a complex and sympathetic character, and author Penny Joelson — an ME patient herself — has done an incredible job of describing an illness that so often leaves its sufferers isolated and ignored. And while a book in which the protagonist spends most of her time trapped in her bedroom doesn’t sound like it could be fast-paced, that’s exactly what this story is.
Kasia is an observant and endlessly curious patient, and while she might have been removed from the world outside, she certainly doesn’t let it pass her by. When she sees the curtains move in the house opposite, and the face of a girl materialises at the window, she’s desperate to reach out to someone as isolated as she is.
But the adults in the house say that the girl doesn’t exist.
Is she a ghost? A figment of Kasia’s imagination? Or is something far more sinister happening inside number 48?
While struggling with the loss of her old life, little-by-little, Kasia builds herself a new world, befriending the elderly Mrs Gayatri next door, living vicariously through visits from her best friend, Ellie, and conducting her own investigation into the mystery of the girl in the window.
As the pieces begin to fall into place, it becomes clear that only Kasia truly realises the danger the other girl is in, but how can she make everyone else understand? The gripping tale unfolds dramatically over the final half of the book, as Kasia battles for her health, her life, and the invisible girl whose voice has been silenced.
This is a remarkable book by an accomplished story-teller, populated by a diverse and engaging cast of secondary characters, and weaving multiple plotlines together to create something truly riveting. It’s rare to read a book that so skilfully articulates the reality of chronic illness, whilst losing nothing from the pace of the narrative.
Girl in the Window is a vital new addition to the YA genre, and a breath of fresh air in the world of disability representation.
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