Harriet Flores struggles with boredom and an unrequited crush while learning to manage her chronic illness through a long, hot, 1990s summer in Chicago. She uses her imagination to cope, which sometimes gets her into trouble, as she makes up fantastical fibs and wonders if there are ghosts upstairs. One neighbor, Pearl, encourages Harriet to read and write, leading Harriet to have a breakthrough and discover the power of storytelling.
In her middle grade debut, comics creator Searle slowly unspools the story of a middle schooler living with multiple sclerosis. Harriet ("Harry") Flores, 13, is a solitary girl whose family has just moved to Chicago. While her parents work, she spends long summer days alone in a hot row house apartment, wondering about a possible upstairs haunting, penning chipper postcards to former friends, and venturing only as far as the mailbox and downstairs to visit her grandmotherly landlady, Pearl. The dialogue conceals her innermost thoughts, but hints surface when Harry learns about Pearl's son Nicholas, who suffered from polio as a child and experienced isolation similar to her own. After Pearl shares the books Nicholas read while in quarantine (Harry cannot abide The Secret Garden but devours Peter and Wendy), she confesses her fears about friendlessness and being sick in letters to an imagined Nicholas. In jewel-toned art, Searle successfully creates a claustrophobic, lonesome ambience. An author's note discusses invisible disabilities and chronic illness, and offers resources for further reading. Ages 9 14.