Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry is such a sweet and heartfelt story and you will definitely not regret picking it up. It’s about friendship and the anxiety of a life constantly on the move, and it features a girl with Tourette’s syndrome based on the author’s own experiences. Which can I just say is so important for literature?! We know we’re getting an accurate glimpse at what life is like with Tourette’s, plus you can feel the emotion and love poured onto every page.
Calliope is constantly moving house…and moving her body too. She has Tourette’ Syndrome which is defined by uncontrollable tics, some that are easy to hide and others that are loud and draw attention. At 12-years-old, what she wants most is a steady life, a good friend, and for no one to make fun of her. Not too much to ask right? While she and her mother move into a new town, Calli is determined to hide her TS from the kids at school and to finally fit in. This doesn’t…go as planned. She can’t even seem to connect to her neighbour, Jinsong, who seems to like her but won’t spend time with her when they’re not in secret. All Calli wants is to be accepted. So should she be hiding her tics or talking about them?
“Wouldn’t talking about something make it better understood?”
The story told mostly in verse! Which I quite adored and didn’t know that would be the style…so it was a pleasant surprise. The unique poetry formatting and the beautiful but simple language was so easy to feel engaged with. You get to be deep in Calli’s perspective and feel her anxiety as it pours out of her lyrical writing. The verse is also easy to read and definitely a great intro for middle-grade readers.
It’s also dual narrated by Calli and Jinsong. Calli’s mother is constantly on the move, going from one boyfriend to the next, and Calli’s anxiety is at an all time high. She pulls out her hair and has strange rituals and that’s not even mentioning the tics that follow her (and often hurt). Anxiety only sets them off, but she has to hide to fit in, right?? In the new house, her neighbour is Jinsong…who seems super nice. But when Calli tries to make friends with him outside of their homes, he avoids her. Because he’s scared of being labelled and teased too if he hangs out with the “freak”. I think this brings a lot of attention to the inner battles a lot of kids face when deciding whether to befriend the outcast. It was very hard to feel for Jinsong in his chapters though, when he spent so long leaving Calli to suffer because he was too scared to reach out to her. But I do think the book properly caught the struggle to be 12 and undecided on what path you’re choosing: self-preservation or love and help.
The author so deeply unpacked the need to talk about disabilities. To shatter stigmas around Tourette’s. In the author’s note, she even mentions that, just like the scene she wrote for Calli, a doctor told her not to tell people about her TS. Because it’s misunderstood and people would just judge her for it. It took the author a long time to realise this was bad advice, and how are people ever going to accept differences if they aren’t taught about them? Reading Calli’s experiences was so amazing too. I just loved her SO much and can’t even imagine the anxiety she went through.
If Forget Me Not isn’t on your TBR pile…you should definitely fix that. It’s a joyous shout to the sky about how being different is not bad, and it’s a loving gift to the neurodiverse kids of the world who want friends and to be accepted.