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written by Emily Smucker edited by Deborah Reber

HCI’s Louder Than Words series features stories about serious issues from real teens who have experienced them.

Emily Smucker was looking forward to her senior year in high school before being diagnosed with the rare and incurable West Nile virus. After that she never feels good, but still manages to move toward a positive future. Emily is a Mennonite, which adds an interesting layer of faith questions and an unusual setting for her story. Taken from Emily’s blog during her long period of illness, her account will draw readers in to her plight as well as her strong spirit.

Senior year was supposed to be awesome. Emily was going to produce a play, film lots of movies, take some courses at the community college, maybe get a job, and enjoy her new driver’s license. A flu seems to be plaguing her, but then she has always caught lots of bugs. Her father is a teacher at the Mennonite school, which only has 32 students, so any absence is a big deal. Emily keeps going to school whenever she feels even a little ok.

Soon the days when she feels even a little ok are rare. Her mother takes her for a battery of blood tests that sometimes get lost or are inconclusive. One doctor finally thinks she has the West Nile virus. Each time she starts feeling even a little better, she lapses back into periods of hazy illness when she can’t even think straight to do homework. Instead of looking forward to a year of achievement and fun, she is now worried about graduation. She is left out of the school Christmas play, then the family spring trip, and finds it harder to keep her spirits up. A trip to a sister in North Carolina helps a bit, but the illness comes back strong at times. Using a cane becomes a must.

Emily’s writing shows a sense of humor, a love of her family, and a strong faith that help her through an impossible year. In the middle of being stuck in her bed for a long time, she will post funny blog entries about her room or her friends like a normal, healthy teen, turning this very serious story into an engaging read. The West Nile virus does eventually lessen its grip on victims who live through it, and Emily is able to begin piecing together a future, even if her senior year did not go according to her excited plans. Readers of EMILY will enjoy hearing about the brighter side of the tunnel.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on August 3, 2009

written by Emily Smucker edited by Deborah Reber

  • Publication Date: August 3, 2009
  • Genres: Christian
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: HCI Teens
  • ISBN-10: 0757314147
  • ISBN-13: 9780757314148