One way to have success is to identify a moment or an event or a condition that everyone can relate to, or at least understand, but no one has yet crystallized. Think, for example, of Semisonic’s “Closing Time”. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s a good song or not — it’s an instant anthem, something people can play to sum up that specific moment.
Allergic is something of an equivalent. Writer Megan Wagner Lloyd and artist Michelle Mee Nutter have put out a story that many kids can relate to. I didn’t think it was particularly well-structured, but that this exists at all will satisfy many people, particularly kids who will appreciate seeing someone like them on the page.
Maggie is extremely excited to be getting a dog for her birthday. Her twin brothers Liam and Noah entertain themselves. Her parents are expecting a new baby, which distracts them. She wants something she can love and form her own special relationship with. Unfortunately, she finds out she’s severely allergic, breaking out in swelling and rashes.
Since she won’t be allowed anything with fur or feathers (after being tested by a doctor, who explains allergies to her and thus the reader), she tries to think of other kinds of pets — fish, lizards, hedgehogs — but none of them work out. To complicate things, she’s in a new school, and she becomes the reason the class pet has to be moved.
She does wind up making some friends, one of whom has food allergies, for comparison. She tries for another pet, keeping it a secret, which has ramifications for the family. I wish we’d seen more with the friends, and more with the other attempts at pets. There was a lot of potential here that fizzled out.
The events are competently told. There’s a bit too much, I thought, of the lead character telling us what’s going on, instead of allowing the reader to understand the story and the character’s emotions themselves.
My biggest problem is that the key conflict — Maggie wants a pet and can’t have one — can’t be solved. Instead, the book ends with Maggie being distracted by a new baby, which has the undertones of all her worries and concerns being for naught. That’s discouraging to me as a reader. If she shouldn’t have been worrying about these things, why was I reading about them for 200 pages?
There’s an overall air of settling that I didn’t care for. I’m sure many readers will enjoy simply seeing someone suffering with the same issues they do, but I found this story disappointing. The creators do a good job portraying the problem, but the solutions, such as they are, feel tacked on, and the pacing is uneven. (The publisher provided a review copy.)