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Based on a True Story, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Free Verse, Friendship, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

FORGET ME NOT by Ellie Terry

I just finished Forget Me Not, read it in one sitting and couldn’t wait to share it! Forget Me Not is a brilliant debut from new author Ellie Terry.  The story is written from the perspectives of Calliope (Calli), a young girl who loves astronomy, has moved to new towns (and schools)many more times than she’d like and suffers from Tourette’s syndrome; and Jinsong, the student body president of Black Ridge Intermediate School in St. George, Utah–the place where Calli and her mother end up within the first ten pages.

Calli’s perspective is always told using free verse and Jinsong’s is told using prose.  This literary choice by the author helps make each of their voices distinct and effective in telling their dual story.  Once diagnosed with Tourette’s Calli has been told by her doctor not to share that information:

Dr. Flagner also said

that if he were me,

he wouldn’t go around telling everybody,

because Tourette’s is a very

 

misunderstood

 

disorder

and if people knew,

they’d treat me different,

expect me to curse

spit in their face

give them the finger,

because that’s all they’ve seen in the movies

even though not everyone

who has Tourette’s

does that.

As a result, Calli doesn’t tell anyone at her new school she has Tourette’s, but is–of course–unable to control the tics that sometimes take over her body.  What she wants most of all is a friend.

Now my Tourette’s

is harder to hide,

but I have to try

if I want to make friends.

 

I have to try.

When Calli meets Jinsong in their apartment complex before she starts at Black Ridge Intermediate, he thinks she’s interesting and nice.  He is hoping she will start at their school the next day.  But when Calli walks into his classroom the next morning…

Wiggle          my nose

pucker          my lips

roll                 my eyes

clear              my throat

clap               my hands

tap                 my feet.

So much for keeping them hid.

Although Jinsong saw hints of Calli’s tics when he first met her this is the first time he sees them in front of their peers.  Part of what makes Forget Me Not so genuine is Jinsong’s honest reaction in that moment:

I don’t have to wonder what Duncan and Nyle think.  I hear them whisper, “Freak Girl.”  I see the smirks on their faces.  And one thing’s for sure:  I am not telling them that I know her.

Calli’s raw, pained honesty and Jinsong’s tortured struggle to do the right thing regardless of what others will say carve two parallel narratives that converge as they each discover what it means to become the people they know themselves capable of being.

In her Author’s Note Ellie Terry reveals that she was diagnosed with Tourette’s as an adult.  Her neurologist advised her (as Dr. Flagner advised Calli’s mother in the book) not to share her diagnosis:

Days Passed, and I thought a lot about what my doctor had said.  And I realized he was halfway right.  Tourette syndrome is a very misunderstood disorder.  But if I kept quiet about it, wouldn’t that only contribute to it being misunderstood?  So I decided to do something very scary.  I shared my diagnosis with my family and friends, and even some strangers.  And it felt wonderful.  To let it all out.  To feel a little more understood.  Isn’t that what every person wants?  To feel a little more understood?

We are fortunate that Ms Terry has chosen to share not only her story, but Calli’s and Jinsong’s as well.  Forget Me Not is a read that will be a gift to yourself and anyone with whom you choose to share it!

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