Halfway Normal- Barbara Dee

Image result for halfway normal barbara dee                   childrens book
Barbara Dee (2017)

Norah Levy has just completed two years of treatment for leukemia and is ready to go back to the “real world” of middle school. She knows it’ll be tricky–but like the Greek mythological characters she read about while she was sick, Norah’s up for any challenge.

(via Barbara Dee Books )


Cancer is scary. And much like the author points out, it is not something anyone talks about with ease. To an extent, it is still taboo, especially when children are concerned. Still, it is becoming more and more common to everyday life. I am willing to bet that everyone can at least say they know someone who has had or currently has cancer. But we still don’t talk about it. We participate in Relay for Life, we hold fundraisers like bake sales, we buy bracelets, etc. But we don’t talk about it, which was a huge point in this book.

I know personally I have had my own problems with that specific issue. I like to think of myself as an empathetic person- but cancer has always thrown me for a loop. I’ve “dated” two guys who had cancer (long before they met me) and both times I found myself trying TOO hard to “understand.” I made excuses for them when they didn’t deserve it, got upset or worried over nothing, until eventually it just became too much for me. I think that is why I appreciated and liked Harper so much. She was so real in her reactions to Norah. She is exactly what I would have wanted (and needed) in a friend, had I been in Norah’s situation. the author does a good job, I think, making an example of exactly how hard it is for anyone really, to truly understand what it is like to have had, and survive cancer.

While I felt Norah was a little too immature for her “7th grade” character, I realize that was also the point of the doctors when they said she would mostly likely be “lacking socially” even if she wasn’t suffering academically. Her immaturity made it a little harder to empathize with her throughout the book. However, that point aside, I was happy with this book. I think is was tastefully done, considering the content.

Looking into this book, I found the following discussion questions on the author’s website. If you have read this book, consider some of these questions. What would your answers be?

  • If you were in Norah’s place, do you think you’d act the same way with friends and classmates? How much would you share with them? How much would you keep private?
  • What do you think about Norah’s parents? If Norah hadn’t become sick, do you think their relationship would be different? How?
  • Many people try to help Norah. Whose help is helpful? Whose isn’t? What sort of help would you want if you were in Norah’s shoes?
  • Norah is confused about her reaction to the bake sale. Why do you think she reacts the way she does? Do you think you’d have the same reaction?
  • Norah identifies with Persephone. Is there a mythological character you identify with? Why?

The author also presents the question, what is the difference between sympathy and empathy, in Norah’s English class. When you are reading, do you find that you are more of a sympathizer, or an empathizer? Why do you think that is?

Is this book on your TBR shelf? Have you read it? What do you think?


on deck book On Deck:

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green 


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