Harriet Sirof

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Because She's My Friend

Sirof, Harriet

Last Updated: May-29-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults


Serving as a summer hospital volunteer, fifteen-year-old Teri d'Angelo meets Valerie Ross, a girl her age who has damaged a nerve in a fall, and lost the use of one leg. Valerie's anguish over her partial paralysis takes the form of anger; she manages to keep most of those who try to help her at a distance. But Teri finds her intriguing, and Valerie's condition evokes a kind of sympathy and interest in her that overcomes even the patient's most strenuous rebuffs. Gradually, and with much caution on Valerie's part, they become friends. Valerie finds herself welcomed into Teri's large, warm Italian-American family. Teri's compassion for Valerie grows as she recognizes her loneliness; Valerie's parents are divorced, her father rarely visits, and her mother keeps up a hectic work schedule.
Teri also benefits in ways she didn't expect from the friendship; Valerie's bravery, even when masked with anger, inspires her to speak up more clearly on her own behalf, to ask for what she needs, and even to circulate a petition at school when she feels she has been discriminated against in the judging of a science project.
When Valerie is taken to a "sanitarium"-a mental health facility-for depression and apparently psychosomatic involvement of her good leg in the paralysis, Teri visits her patiently, despite Valerie's apparent lack of interest. But finally, when she watches Valerie rejecting the grandmother who traveled from England to see her, she acts in uncharacteristic anger, and in the shock of the moment, Valerie stands up, proving to herself and others that her good leg does, infact, function.  It is a turning point in her healing.

In an interesting twist, the book ends with the girls drifting apart.  They are, indeed, very different. Valerie is planning to attend City College in engineering. Valerie is going to live with her grandmother in England and attend Oxford University, hoping later to become a writer. In a final phone call, two years after Valerie's accident, the girls part with some affection and gratitude on both sides, but also with an acceptance of the fact that their friendship may have been for a season. They gave each other important gifts, and now life is taking them in very different directions. 

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