Ollie is unable to tolerate electricity. He is encouraged to start a correspondence with a penpal, a boy in another country who is also special. Moritz was born without eyes and has a pacemaker fitted to keep his heart beating. The very thing that keeps Moritiz alive would kill Ollie. So they are unable to meet, yet this doesn’t prevent their friendship forming through the written word.
I was sceptical starting this book. Ollie opens with the fact he is allergic to electricity which just sounded a bit ridiculous to me. However that’s really just how he chooses to describe his condition. As for Moritz, I have heard about blind people using a form of echolocation, however nowhere near advanced as his. I’d like to imagine that this pair are fledgling superheroes, before they find their feet. It’s that kind of reality, and approaching this as a SFF read rather than contemporary YA, will help a lot in accepting the two boys.
Told in letters between Ollie and Moritz, the narrative voices are wonderfully distinctive. They really don’t need their differing fonts, but they both suit their personalities. Moritiz is more of a serious serif type and Ollie is a more carefree sans serif kinda guy. I liked the fact that Moritiz was annoyed at first by Ollie’s puppyish nature and overly personal introduction. And their friendship isn’t always smooth, even if they are only communicating through letters.
Imagine if supernatural abilities didn’t make you into a superhero but were actually just a pain in the ass? Think about some of the superheroes in comics that would be picked on in school or be shunned by society. Being different is not necessarily appreciated when you’re in high school.
We really take electricity for granted. Poor Ollie has to live out in the woods, without school which he envies of Moritz, and the only friend he makes is the niece of a neighbour. His mother is overprotective and his doctor is always trying to experiment with him. He just wants to be a normal boy and share his enthusiasm with other people. It also looks at how when your world view is limited, you attach to one person, for good or bad.
Moritz’s story deals with bullying and also the hardships of living with a face that scares people. He tries to hide his true nature, both his physical and mental, and his path starts to lead him astray. Moritz doesn’t care so much that he won’t meet Ollie, but something about the tenacious boy in the woods keeps him writing anyway.
So if you can get past the weirdness, it’s an amazing story about friendship and bravery. All my little niggles about Ollie’s condition were actually acknowledged in the story. Ollie doesn’t quite understand how the electricity inside his body is OK, but the generated kind isn’t. As more is revealed about the boys, it reminded me a little of one aspect of The Rook. I think perhaps it is packaged a little bit too much like a contemporary which means some people might just not get it. But it’s beautifully written, emotional, frank and warm.
Because You’ll Never Meet Me is published by Bloomsbury and will be available in paperback and ebook editons from 2nd July 2015. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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