The Moth Girl / Heather Kamins / Book Review


Anna used to be just a regular girl. She ran track at school. She hung out with her friends. She studied to get good grades, even went out to parties on the weekend. But then everything changed.

One day at track, Anna falls unconscious... and also falls up, floating away from the ground. She wakes up in the hospital to a brand new diagnosis: lepidopsy, a rare manifestational disease. Perilous gravity-defying spells are just the first symptom of her new illness, and this isn't something that goes away.

This diagnosis changes everything for Anna, forever. Anna's old friends don't understand her, and her diagnosis makes her an object of curiosity in the school hallways. It's a long journey back to normalcy, whatever that means when hospital visits and weekly manifestational clinics are a major part of life. Can a new normal be achieved, or will Anna be pushed to let go and float away?



This book really encapsulates the essence of magical realism. It's a sad story. Don't let the whimsical disease trick you. It does a great job of expressing the ups-and-downs of life with a chronic illness.


Medical Awkwardness Obviously, the illness Anna has is not a real disease, but the awkwardness of returning to society after her diagnosis feels incredibly real. The awkward looks, the tears (both her own and others'), and the sense of anything-but-normalcy are incredibly frustrating on the page and in real life. It is nice to see this experience so clearly and so cleverly represented in literature, from the uncomfortable concern to the prying curiosity and the utter embarrassment all around.

Drifting Friends Friends and friendship drift and change all the time, but this is especially true during periods of new illness. Many friends can't handle all the attention someone gets when they're going through a time of trouble. They can't muster up real support. Put simply, a friend's illness can be too hard for some people. That is clearly represented here. These friends aren't bad friends, necessarily. They're just seasonal friends--friends only meant for a certain time in life. As life changes, they shift away. While this definitely hurts to admit, it is so, so good to have that represented in these pages.

Throwback This book isn't set in the contemporary age of mask mandates and rampant app usage. It's not even set five years ago, pre-current-global-catastrophe. It's a true throwback to a time before ubiquitous cellphone usage. It's a time when malls still largely existed for high schoolers to mill about in. It takes me back to my own middle school days, at least in that regard. This book is a fun kind of near-contemporary throwback to a time like ours but also not-quite-the-same.


The often poetical prose employed here really doesn't match the young, athletic, party-goer main character. She is, for all intents and purposes, an average high school girl, and so the narration waxing lyrical just doesn't quite fit. There was a mismatch in tone and purpose that made the transitions hard to read and the prose difficult to sink into. Voice Dissonance

Though there are abundant breaks within the chapters, the chapters are indeed long. Anyone looking to make it through the first chapter alone will struggle with this. I mean, the first chapter is over a tenth of the book itself! That's long. Even with chapter breaks, it can be hard to take a mental break while reading this work--and this is exactly the subject matter that would benefit from a cool-down period for readers between chapters. Long Chapters

Of course a book dealing with chronic illness will feature a fair number of fair-weather friends, but I really wish there had been examples of good, supportive friends, too. There will always be those friends, struggling to do their best as you are struggling. The two friends we got here were both so incredibly toxic. Where is the hope for good friends in a time of hardship? Toxic Friends



Those looking for another hard-topic-wrapped-in-magical-realism after Anna-Marie McLemore's The Mirror Season ill enjoy this exploration of chronic illness. Those who appreciated Lurlene McDaniel's Six Months to Live will enjoy this just-a-touch older cast of characters.


Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Date: March 8, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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