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At age 11, Nicole is a typical, active girl. By age 18, she is blind, unable to walk following a stroke and just about in remission from cancer. This book is the story of those in-between 7 years and what went wrong and, surprisingly, right.
I was a bit apprehensive about reviewing this one because I thought either it would be quite sad and depressing, or it would be all American, happy clappy, 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'-esque. You don't expect the first thoughts of a normal teenager going through cancer treatment to be "Ooh, let's see if I can write a book about this" and so you have to wonder whether Nicole IS normal, but from a few pages in you clearly establish that she is, and what's more, that she's alive and kicking.
The book is mainly Nicole's diary in her own words, but it is supplemented by notes from her mother (from times Nicole was too sick to remember) and messages from her teachers, doctors and school friends. In the middle there are some pages of colour photos which chart her decline in health, from an active pre-teen doing gymnastics in her bedroom, to an 18 year old with limited mobility, virtually no sight and the short locks signifying a recent bout of chemo.
You can't help but feel the difference between this and the ream of fictitious teenage girl diaries (invariably written by middle aged women) that are also on the market. This one is so much more real, so much more human, so much more intriguing, inspiring and, despite the subject matter, entertaining. It's less polished, but that's the beauty of it. Nicole is really honest with herself, and her readers throughout the book. She doesn't come across as a brat or as a saint. Instead she seems like someone who did her best to keep going through what was clearly a tough time in her life, but who retained her status as a human (and as a teenager!) throughout, snapping at people at times, ignoring others, being rude and then regretting it, and maintaining an unhealthy obsession with pop stars, her dogs, and the colour pink.
I really enjoyed the book, and felt glad that by reading it I was confirming that Nicole had achieved one of her numerous life goals, that of publishing a book. On the first page she lists the "rules" for reading, which include 'Do not think poor girl, because I'm not' and if there's one thing I didn't feel on the last page, it's sorry for her. She has achieved some quite astounding things in her life already, and I'm saying that thinking of her as a regular teenager, not as a disabled/blind/cancer-surviving teenager. It really is an inspiring book, and she is a very inspiring girl. Recommended reading for everyone.
You can learn more about Nicole on her website
It's from here that I learnt that Nicole has passed away since I originally reviewed this book (for The Bookbag). Fundraising in her name continues.