This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness.
Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn’t sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read.
I picked this one up on a whim. I hadn't read any reviews and just sort of remembered reading a description during the ordering process at my library. But I'm trying to read 15 stand-alone titles this year, and this one was within reach so I went for it. Then I realized it was a novel in verse that had to be read in a particular way, and I almost bailed. But I decided to be a good librarian and reader and power through.
Chess is in the hospital with severe stomach cramps. Lying in bed, feeling extremely sorrow for herself, she meets the girl on the other side of the curtain, Shannon, who is exceptionally bitter after years of hospitalization. Over the course of the week, the girls bond over shared misery and hope, struggling to come to terms with their disease and learning to live life anyway.
So that's the gist. Sometimes the verse felt structured. Other times it felt all free form and was terribly confusing to follow (which could totally just be me because I'm not one to read poetry). You don't really get to learn much about either girl. While I felt sorrow for Chess, especially has reveals the story of a summer night with a crush, nothing much is resolved and she seemed a bit selfish.
Like a lot of books I read, I felt like author Lucy Frank was on to something pretty good, but Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling just fell a bit short. I wanted a little more. A little more character development. A little more emotional impact.
Overall, a decent effort, and if you're a fan of interestingly formatted books, this might be a good choice. If you're not a fan of novel-in-verse, maybe skip this one. Or not. You never know!