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Because You'll Never Meet Me
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Because You'll Never Meet Me is about the pen-pal relationship between two boys who are isolated from the outside world due to congenital health issues. American Oliver ("Ollie") Paulot and German Moritz Farber are encouraged to write to each other by a doctor familiar with their cases. The boys are complete opposites in personality and physical issues, but through their correspondence they help each other grow and break out of their physical and emotional isolation. Expect infrequent swearing, including "s--t" and its variations, "p---y," "crap," and "ass." Several scenes of violent bullying, including characters getting hit in the face with bloody results, having fingers slammed in doors, and being forced to eat a dead rodent.
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What's the story?
American Ollie Paulot and German Moritz Farber are very different teen boys. In fact, they are so physically opposite they may never be able to meet: Ollie has severe seizures when he is near any electricity or electrical impulse, and Moritz's pacemaker (which sends electrical pulses to control his heartbeat) is the only thing keeping him alive. When Ollie's doctor suggests that he strike up a pen-pal relationship with Moritz, the two boys get off to a rocky start. Ollie is all energy and enthusiasm, much of which stems from living in a cabin in the woods (away from all electricity) with his mom. Moritz, who has no eyes and is somewhat weak from the pacemaker, lives in a self-imposed emotional isolation after enduring reactions of horror to his eyeless face. As the boys open up to each other, they share their daily trials, deepest fears, relationship issues, and facts and theories about how they were both born with highly unusual medical issues. Through their correspondence, they form a deep bond and help each other grow intellectually and emotionally.
Is it any good?
BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME is a sweet, epistolary novel of two boys who are opposite in every way but find common ground in their humanity. The fun in the novel comes from the boys' opposite personalities. American Ollie must live in a cabin in the Michigan woods, far from any electricity. He has boundless energy and optimism and longs to know more about the world. German Moritz lives in a bustling city and is far more reserved and despondent about life, having been at the receiving end of horrified reactions and bullying because he was born with no eyes. The best part is learning more about Ollie's and Moritz's lives and struggles as they endure hardships and loss. Their pen-pal relationship goes through its ups and downs, but it deepens and strengthens as the letters they exchange show them growing and learning from one another.
The book moves slowly until the halfway point, when the story starts to pick up. Though the characters are interesting and well drawn, the situation with the boys' health feels contrived. The story takes a weird, fantastical turn toward the end that seems to come out of nowhere. If that part of the story had been interwoven into the earlier part of the book, the novel would have been more compelling overall.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about isolation. Do you ever choose to isolate yourself emotionally or physically? Why? Does it help you to be alone for a while, or do you think you'd benefit from opening up to others when you feel that way?
How much do you think of life in terms of pop culture, especially movies, television, and music? Do you often find yourself referring to movies, TV shows, and songs? How do you think your life would be different if you didn't see movies and TV or listen to music?
Have certain books or movies helped you learn more about issues and struggles you might not have thought of otherwise? Which books, and what did you get out of them?
Themes & Topics
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