Keely, whose three "best friends" are a dominant clique in their class, notices that a classmate, Anya, appears to be wearing a wig. The girls confer about it at lunchtime, wonder whether to ask about it, and theorize that she may have cancer and be undergoing chemotherapy. Stef, long the most aggressive among the four friends, suggests that Keely talk with Anya and find a way to determine whether it is a wig, but Keely refuses, recognizing in Anya, whom she rarely notices, a quality of loneliness she hadn’t seen before.

Their curiosity is satisfied when Anya’s wig comes off during a gym exercise and she runs out and remains absent for several days. Keely decides to visit Anya and learns that she has a rare disease, alopecia areata, which is painless and otherwise harmless, but causes hair to fall out, sometimes all over the body. When she asks if she can help, Anya replies, "Not unless you want to give me your hair."

Keely researches the disease for class and finds that there is a foundation that collects long hair for wigs for patients suffering from Anya’s condition, so she cuts off her own long hair and encourages classmates to do the same in a gesture of solidarity with Anya, in the process defining a new independence from the clique of friends who have too long shaped and confined her judgments of others.


The point of view in this short novel, which is focused on preteens, shifts from Keely’s to Anya’s, so both the pain of the condition and the bewilderment of a young person learning to recognize and enter into another’s suffering are represented. Though the book is short and the plot fairly uncomplicated, the characterization is lively and the encounters and conversations poignant.

Certainly a good book for children suffering the condition, but also for discussing the social dimensions of suffering--privacy, image, how to offer sympathy, what distances to keep. An appendix includes information about the disease and the "Locks of Love" foundation that collects hair for people with alopecia areata.


Simon & Schuster

Place Published

New York



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