Backlist Review: Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

Friday, November 4, 2016
Title: Because You'll Never Meet Me
Author: Leah Thomas
Genre: contemporary
Series: Because You'll Never Meet Me #1
Pages: 344
Published: June 2015
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

In a stunning literary debut, two boys on opposite ends of the world begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever.

Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.

A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

Leah Thomas's debut novel Because You'll Never Meet Me came out just over a year ago. It made a big deal and got some attention and a lot of my close reader-friends loved it. For some reason, I thought this contemporary YA about two teenage outcasts wouldn't be a book for me. Cut to now, and I now know that past-me was so wrong. Because You'll Never Meet Me may be the story of electric-allergic Ollie and eyeless Moritz, but there's something infinitely human and relatable to their individual lonelinesses, their struggles, and the strong, unlikely friendship that grounds them both. 

Through the authentic-reading letters written by each character to the another, two pictures of teenage life in seclusion emerge. Ollie and Moritz each have to face different issues in their lives, be it society's judgements or just the functions of society but they are able to find common cause and understanding with one another. They are a smooth balance of friends and foils, cheerleaders and realists; it's not always pretty but it is a real love. The depth of their relationship is in no way hindered by the lack of face time and the conceit of the novel works so well for how Thomas frames her story.

I was absolutely caught up in the narrative between Moritz and Ollie until nearly the end. The sole issue I had with the plot's progression came into play later in the novel. In order to not give away spoilers I will just say it has to do with how the two boys are really connected. For a novel that been solidly one thing (contemporary!) to veer into this plotline (Ollie has powers? Evil scientists creating genetweaked kids with powers?) seemed a stretch, and just outside the realm of believability for me.  I was thrown out of a story I had been solidly enmeshed in and I have doubts how it will come to play in Nowhere Near You. I don't hate it, but I liked Because You'll Never Meet Me more before it happened.

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