Allayne L. Webster, Sensitive, University of Queensland Press, June 2019, 240 pp., RRP $16.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780702260483
‘New town. New me.’ Thirteen year old Samantha is rebranding herself ‘SJ’ and is determined that at her new school the real Samantha will be well hidden. SJ will be strong, confident and eczema free. But it’s not easy hiding her skin condition. Keeping a secret that big is exhausting and involves some pretty creative cover ups. However it is nowhere near as exhausting as the time given to worrying about her condition, its causes and consequences. Why is she allergic? Is it what she eats? Are there dust mites on her pillow? Will she end up like Livvy’s mum? Will she always be a freak? At last she finds medication that works, but has horrible side effects and is only temporary. The weight of all that lying and worrying is too much to bear, her condition worsens and she ends up in hospital. After all the heartbreak, stress and embarrassment it is time for Samantha to be true to herself and her friends. The ‘new new me’ will be honest and brave. Will she ever learn to love herself?
Allayne L. Webster takes us into the heart, mind and soul of SJ. Despite her self doubt, SJ is a likeable character, brave and witty. Readers will travel the emotional rollercoaster with her and long for her to be well and find the acceptance she craves. With themes of tolerance, resilience, body image and living with chronic illness, this is an important story for young teens. I also loved the jewels of wisdom that other characters brought to the tale, such as Grandma’s insight that ‘what other people think of you is none of your business.’
Highly recommended for upper primary and lower secondary readers.
Reviewed by Sharon Seymour