Cassie, by Barry Jonsberg

I’m Holly Holley and I’m short, I’m ugly and I’m overweight. I have only one friend in the world and she cares more about books than boyfriends. And now I’m lying in a strange room while strangers lie in mine. And they’re the reason I’ve blown my chances with Demi.
It’s not fair.

Holly Holley has an embarrassing name and terrible life. She’s overweight, unattractive, and not in with the right crowd. The boy she fancies doesn’t even know she exists. And, as if all that isn’t enough, now her household is being turned upside down by the arrival of her aunt and a cousin she doesn’t know. Cassie, the cousin, has severe cerebral palsy, and is confined to a wheelchair, unable to communicate with anyone other than her mother. Holly has to give up her room for Cassie and her mother, and move into the tiny, smelly spare room. Everything about her life is unfair – until the coolest girl at school, Demi, decides to take Holly under her wing. She is going to help Holly transform herself. But will that transformation come at a cost?

Cassie is a story about friendship, loyalty and self image, and also explores issues including disability and honesty. Whilst this seems a big list of topics, the story is also a fun read, and not overly-complex. The use of differing perspectives – including those of Holly and Cassie, and their mothers, Fern and Ivy – allows plenty of insights into the motivations and dilemmas of all characters, and it is especially intriguing to be offered the perspective of Cassie, who, unable to speak, could so easily be simply a token character in the book but who is, as the use of her name for the title suggests, integral to the story. Whilst Holly faces problems many teen readers will relate to – peer pressure, friendship and boy problems and so on – Cassie’s challenges are huge, but rather than this making her unable to relate to Holly’s problems, they enable her to empathise and connect with her cousin.

Part of the girlfriend fiction, Cassie will appeal to teen readers.

Cassie, by Barry Jonsberg
Allen & Unwin, 2008