It’s My Life – Stacie Ramey – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 7 January 2020
Jenna’s never let her cerebral palsy get her down. But when she discovers that her condition was actually caused by an injury at birth, she’s furious with her parents, who withheld the truth. And as they push her to get yet another difficult procedure, Jenna feels her control over her life starting to slip.
Enter Julian, Jenna’s childhood crush. He’s just moved back to town, and he’s struggling in school, so Jenna reaches out to him—anonymously— to help. Soon, their conversations are about so much more than class. She’s falling for him all over again, hard and fast. But would Julian still be interested in her if he knew who she really was? And can she find a way to take back her own narrative before she pushes away everyone she loves?
It’s My Life is a story about growing up, finding your voice and asserting control over your life, while also learning to accept others for the choices they make. Unfortunately, an awkward text-based romance drives what should be a sweet story of first love, but overall It’s My Life is about empowerment and family.
When Jenna discovered that her Cerebral Palsy was caused rather than just happened, it changed how she views her parents, the medical system, her lack of say in the decisions happening about her body, even her body’s limits. When an old friend—and longtime crush— returns to town, Jenna is torn between avoiding the inevitable rejection and a chance to get close to him. She starts chatting with him via text, refusing to reveal her identity. Meanwhile, as her parents discuss yet another surgery, Jenna considers medical emancipation.
I know this is just one girl’s story and every person with Cerebral Palsy and a disability is different, prefers different terms, has a different approach to their abilities, life, etc, but I know that the perspective in this story is a powerful message about abilities and empowerment, control and strength. Jenna, at times, refuses to let her CP stop her. Ice skating? No problem. Sneaking out? If her siblings can, she can too. But on the other hand, how she views herself—as something that boys will not want to date— is negative and destructive. This negativity extends outside her disability and into body image as well.
While I personally didn’t love Jenna’s voice, hers is perhaps an authentic teen voice (very happy for teens to disagree with me on that) – experiencing first love, navigating high school dramas, fighting with parents and all the struggles that come with growing up. She has a lot of learning and growing up to do, and she does learn and does grow up in the book. While it might be clear to the reader that she is being unfair to those around her, her concerns with control over her body and decisions about her body were completely understandable. Jenna struggles between accepting her body for what it is and can do and experimenting with treatments that could make her or her life ‘better’. No right answer is given and Jenna herself isn’t really sure. But this book is more about the journey of making decisions rather than having all the answers.
She has a great relationship with her siblings and very supportive parents, who while they annoy Jenna with their overprotectiveness and overpowering assertiveness, genuinely care for her and support her. Jenna’s sister, Rena is particularly supportive of Jenna and they have a great relationship. However, as the book is written in first person perspective, we don’t get to see this relationship outside of Jenna’s thoughts and how it works for her.
Jenna is a strong and clever young lady. She is book smart but her social skills need a little work. She engages with the boy she has long loved via secret text messages, flirting with him via text but avoiding him in real life. He takes it very well, interestingly. I’d love to have the discussion with teens about this sort of technology-driven social interactions and the power imbalance and how this relationship might be received if it was gender switched. Not so cute and flirty but creepy, instead? Well worth a discussion. Jenna’s best-friend is your standard YA gay best-friend character—ready to offer relationship and lifestyle advice, but we readers learn nothing more about him outside of his interactions with Jenna.
An easy read with an important message, It’s My Life is a book that will need to be unpacked with teen readers do discuss the undertone messages on body image, abilities and relationships.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction
Themes: Cerebral Palsy, medical malfeasance, relationships, digital relationships, texting, family, parents.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Occasional coarse language, sh** (3), as***** (1). References to medical procedures. Vague sexual references.
Published: 7 January 2020 by Sourcebooks Fire.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 336 pages.