Because You'll Never Meet Me
By Leah Thomas
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1 4088 6262 9
Ollie lives a lonely, isolated existence with his mum in a cabin in a rural part of Michigan in America, far from civilisation.
Moritz lives with his father in a town in Germany, and although he is surrounded by people, he, too, is isolated.
The two boys are best friends who have never met. If they did, they could both die.
Narrated in the form of letters, Leah Thomas's Because You'll Never Meet Me is an extraordinary read. Living on the edge of normal society, Ollie and Moritz exchange letters and grow to depend on each other, despite their very different personalities.
But each of the boys lives in the shadow of a mystery. Ollie's mum refuses to tell him about his father. Moritz lives with Mr Farber, who adopted him as a child. Could these two lonely boys, living totally different lives thousands of kilometres apart, have a deeper connection than they realise?
Ollie has a dreadful medical condition: he is allergic to electricity. The slightest exposure would give him a seizure which could be fatal, so there are no electrical appliances of any kind in the cabin.
Despite having little human contact except from Auburn-Stache, his doctor, and Liz, a girl who occasionally brings him news of electronic wonders in the outside world, Ollie is full of energy, wisecracks and curiosity. He is the direct opposite of the boy he befriends in far-away Germany.
Moritz Farber is aloof, humourless and sardonic, but there's a terrible reason he developed this personality. He was born without eyes and requires a pacemaker for a heart condition. But Moritz is determined to live life as best he can. He insists he is not blind, but that he can see by using echolocation like bats do in the dark.
These two boys need each other, though they will not admit it. Writing to each other gives them the strength to face the difficulties life has thrown at them. Thomas builds up each boy's personality skilfully, and the relationship between them is funny, intriguing and poignant. But how have did they find each other? And what connects them?
This debut novel is like nothing you'll have read before. Its unusual premise and the two central characters will intrigue young adult readers looking for an unusual and challenging read. A witty and absorbing take on the complex nature of friendship.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com