'Because You'll Never Meet Me' by Leah Thomas review
Because You’ll Never Meet Me is the communication between Ollie Paulot, a 14 year old American boy, who is a self-confessed hermit – due to his epilepsy that leaves him allergic to any kind of electricity as it triggers his seizures, and Moritz Farber, a 16 year old German boy who wears goggles and tries to remain invisible – due to his terrifying past, and his visual impairment. They both become penpals, and this story is as much about relationships, and connections, than anything else. Thomas writes both characters with so much complexity that their lives, hopes and fears leap across the page to you, and as their friendship blossoms, you find yourself not only rooting for both characters, but very much believing you are reading letters between real penpals, and watching a real connection form before your eyes.
The characters’ stories themselves really resonate. There is a universal longing that you can’t not lose yourself in – especially not as Thomas writes each letter, and so reveals each character’s story, with such passion and in two very different, engaging voices. So much so that I found myself almost ravenous to read the reply to each letter I read. While both of the boys’ circumstances are ones that most will never understand – I love how pity is never felt for Ollie or Moritz, which is very much the case when disabled characters are written about. You feel sad when saddening things happened, you grieve when they grieve, but you never pity them, which is very important, given how disabled people are often perceived.
Because while the disabilities and impairments that both characters have do impact their lives, this is addressed in a way that is so well done that you understand perspectives and experiences that could be familiar to you on a deeper, or different level than before, and perhaps some will finish the book with new, richer understandings of how some disabled people live – and so this book is telling stories that enrich many lives in many different ways. Basically, this book is an experience in various, amazing different ways, and very much demands to be read.
With a mixture of science-fiction to also give reading the book more of an otherworldly feel – every element of Because You’ll Never Meet Mebegs you to read on, especially as reality and fiction does become so welded together at certain points – that you feel completely at the mercy of Thomas and her beautifully crafted characters, and what they each perceive. But even though there are elements of science-fiction involved, it never takes away any of the meaning from the story, about living and humanity, and love; and this mixture even leaves you with more tantalising questions than answers.
Both Ollie and Moritz’s voices never faltered throughout the book. Even though they are both the same gender, Thomas differentiates them easily, and from the very first letter, both characters’ contrasting personalities only make you understand their position and view on their world in a distinct fashion. From then on, the whole reading experience in Because You’ll Never Meet Me becomes an outstandingly beautiful one, because there is so much in this rich novel that you can’t not fall in love with it.
Overall, Because You’ll Never Meet Me is a rich, powerful novel about humanity, perspective and love that will warm your heart initially as much as it will capture it completely by the end.