The View from a Kite by Maureen Hull

Life inside a 1970s TB ward from the point of view of a teenage girl who won’t take her treatment lying down.

A View from a Kite is a superlative young adult book, featuring a fresh, likable protagonist in an utterly fascinating setting. Gwen is 17 and has tuberculosis, so she lives in a sanatarium where her only responsibilities are to rest, eat, and heal. She lives amongst patients of all ages, and one of the great treats of this book comes from watching Gwen interact with her substitute family. Gwen’s own biological family has been fractured by violence–her father dead, and her mother living in a twilight world of her own–but she’s not one to move on and forget, as evidenced by the way she treasures her dementia-stricken Aunt Edith on the few visits she’s allowed home.

Author Maureen Hull is a devilishly funny writer, finding moments of great humor within what could have just been angsty and melancholy. She pokes fun at the romanticism of “consumption” through Gwen’s own obsession with the lanky, pale, Romantic poets who suffered from the disease. Gwen herself is rebellious though also obedient; she wants to get well just as much as she wants to be free, a dichotomy which makes her a fascinating and enjoyable character.

YA librarians take note–A View from a Kite is one you should get into the hands of your favorite bookworms.

4 thoughts on “The View from a Kite by Maureen Hull”

  1. In tone this sounds as though it might be something like Morris Gleitzman’s ‘Two Weeks With the Queen’ a less than traditional approach to writing about child cancer. Do you know it? In the seventies I taught four children who had TB and I never failed to be amazed at their resilience. We forget just how recently this was a major concern.

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