YA ARC Review: CURSED by Karol Ruth Silverstein

Title: CURSED

Author: Karol Ruth Silverstein

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

TW: cancer, arthritis, bullying

As if her parents’ divorce and sister’s departure for college weren’t bad enough, fourteen-year-old Ricky Bloom has just been diagnosed with a life-changing chronic illness. Her days consist of cursing everyone out, skipping school–which has become a nightmare–daydreaming about her crush, Julio, and trying to keep her parents from realizing just how bad things are. But she can’t keep her ruse up forever. 

Ricky’s afraid, angry, alone, and one suspension away from repeating ninth grade when she realizes: she can’t be held back. She’ll do whatever it takes to move forward–even if it means changing the person she’s become. Lured out of her funk by a quirky classmate, Oliver, who’s been there too, Ricky’s porcupine exterior begins to shed some spines. Maybe asking for help isn’t the worst thing in the world. Maybe accepting circumstances doesn’t mean giving up.

My Review:

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the eARC in exchange of an honest review.

A quirky and heartfelt story about chronic pain, fighting little obstacles that come with it, and understanding and accepting the illness even though it hurts.

The story follows fourteen-year-old Erica as she navigates her way in a new school after being diagnosed with arthritis. Between dealing with bullies and the school’s ableist attitude, she tries to find a way to belong with the help of her new friend, Oliver and her public speaking teacher.

First of all, this is the first time ever I have seen juvenile arthritis discussed in a YA book. Second, it’s ownvoices arthritis rep. Third, I LOVED IT!!!!! I will need a whole post to gush over how much I loved it because I never knew people knew what it is like to be a little kid and being told you have arthritis which you always knew was an old-people thing. Sure, I couldn’t connect to Erica in so many ways, but I’m still so happy that this book exists, that her character and story is out there being published for teens to read.

The plot is quite simple, making it a fast and easily understandable read. The story develops fast giving a complete and clear sense of the characters. The voice is quite snarky, and Erica is so sarcastic I loved her. Erica has some sort of a dark sense of humor and every sarcastic comment she makes show her character in depth. I was amazed by how Silverstein shows so much of Erica’s character in such simple narrative.

There were little things here and there I think could have been done better. Silverstein doesn’t mention that Erica has arthritis until a few chapters in. From page on, you see Erica talking about chronic pain but it’s never cleared until much later. The whole time, I was like, Do you have arthritis? Do you have arthritis? And maybe the clarity could be useful in the beginning. I felt like the bullying was a little overdone. Now, I don’t have any experiences being bullied for being arthritic, so I won’t know exactly what it can be like, but I felt like the bullying ways were more fifth-grade like than ninth-grade. And the last thing, the teacher was supposed to be nice, but I just couldn’t like him. I understand Erica wanted to feel like she didn’t need help with anything and wanted everyone to just ignore her disabilities, and the teacher just did that for her. But he was still like ‘I’ll only be nice to you when I can pretend you aren’t arthritic and not wasting my time’.

That aside, I loved every bit of the book. Erica’s character was well developed and Silverstein brilliantly put together her struggles and acceptance of it. From page on, Erica was an interesting and relatable character, pulling readers in her shoes quite swiftly. Throughout the story, she gets stronger and braver. The story ended with the whole cast understanding Erica which was a very satisfying read and definitely a happy ending.

Overall, it’s a raw and quirky story about dealing with juvenile arthritis that will make you ache with Erica, break your heart and heal you back. I absolutely recommend it to all YA readers.

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