cover image Chronically Dolores

Chronically Dolores

Maya Van Wagenen. Dutton, $18.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-42682-0

Van Wagenen (Popular) draws on her experiences managing interstitial cystitis—a chronic bladder condition, as addressed in an author’s note—in her striking fiction debut. Fourteen-year-old Dolores Mendoza, who’s constantly navigating chronic pain due to her IC, is embarrassed when her condition results in a bladder-related incident at school. Suddenly ignored by her best friend and dealing with increasing tension at home surrounding her father’s financial irresponsibility, Dolores feels isolated. Hoping to escape reality, she imagines her life as a telenovela; commiserates with her gay older brother Matteo, who’s facing romantic hurdles; and periodically confides in a witty local priest despite her mother’s disapproval of religion. Then Dolores meets wise and astute autistic teen Terpsichore Berkenbosch-Jones, who rails against her own mother’s overprotective nature. Buoyant banter and Dolores’s interstitial journal entries in which she rates bathroom environments add levity to tense moments depicting Dolores’s illness and her and Terpsichore’s yearning for independence. Compassionate prose conveys the protagonists’ experiences with care and thoughtful, complex characterizations approachably highlight life’s ambiguity. Characters are racially diverse. Ages 12–up. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Mar.)