Falling Through the World - A Journey Through ME/CFS - Rachel   Clarke Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

I came across this book whilst researching books on M.E. This is a novel tells the story of Sarah, a teenager who is struck down with a mystery illness. We see her battle her symptoms, whilst also struggling to keep up with friends, relationship and school, and follow her journey as she is eventually diagnosed with M.E.

This is a book that's extremely difficult for me to review because the story is basically my life. I fell ill at fourteen and was diagnosed with M.E at fifteen, so this is all very close to home for me, even more so as I share the main character's name! What I can say is that although at times this was a difficult read for me because of how close the subject matter is to my heart, it was also a highly accurate portrayal of life as a teenage M.E sufferer and I was completely blown away by the phenomenal job the author has done.

Readers who aren't familiar with M.E as an illness will hopefully have their eyes opened by Sarah's story, but aside from that, they'll also find a gripping, emotional story with fantastic characters and a great plot. I hope people won't be put off by the subject matter, because whilst this book carries an underlying message, Clarke has also managed to keep in some great humour and most importantly the feeling of hope which completely lifts this novel up and stops it being too bleak.

The first person POV worked really well and Sarah was a completely engaging character. I fell in love with her voice and laughed along with her as well as feeling the anger and frustration of what she has to endure alongside her. I really loved her friendship with her best friend Ali, which doesn't always run smoothly. Ali herself is a fantastic addition to the story with her sharp tongue and brutal honesty. That sarcastic nature really reminded me of friends of mine and I think she's exactly the kind of friend you need when you have a chronic illness! It was great seeing the strong bond between Sarah and her mum as well, something which really pulled at the heartstrings whilst I was reading and a bond I could identify with.

Sarah's story, as I mentioned, is one I recognised completely. From the terrifying feeling of falling ill and not knowing what's wrong with you and the even scarier prospect of discovering there is no cure. The struggles she faced at school were all too familiar, from her battle to keep in touch with friends, missing school and not gaining qualifications and the rumours that fly around school when you're not there. Her experience of using a wheelchair really hit home - I too felt the embarrassment the first time I used mine. In fact even some of the lines spoken by characters in this book were lines that people in my life have spoken themselves. It really is quite freaky just how accurate it is and I was so relieved it was done so well.

As a YA novel, Falling Through the World has everything - emotion, friendship, heartbreak and romance, as well as family and school related drama! It also tackles the issues that M.E sufferers face every day - the lack of understanding and poor treatment by medical professionals, as well as the crippling symptoms the illness entails.

Reading this book (and writing this review!) had me close to tears, but in the most complimentary way possible. Falling Through the World has managed to balance an addictive story with an important message, and it is a book I will be recommending for years to come.

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