Cover reveal time! The Moth Girl by Heather Kamins follows the story of Anna. She runs track with her best friend, gets good grades, and sometimes drinks beer at parties.
But one day at track practice, Anna falls unconscious . . . but instead of falling down, she falls up, defying gravity in the disturbing first symptom of a mysterious disease.
This begins a series of trips to the hospital that soon become Anna’s norm. She’s diagnosed with lepidopsy: a rare illness that causes symptoms reminiscent of moths: floating, attraction to light, a craving for sugar, and for an unlucky few, more dangerous physical manifestations.
Anna’s world is turned upside down, and as she learns to cope with her illness, she finds herself drifting further and further away from her former life. Her friends don’t seem to understand, running track is out of the question, and the other kids at the disease clinic she attends once a week are a cruel reminder that things will never be the same.
Scroll down to see the cover and read an excerpt!
Cover design: Kristin Boyle
Illustrator: Hsiao Ron Cheng
By the beginning of October, cross-country practice was excruciating. Smilla and my parents were asking more frequently if I was okay, and my lies were becoming less convincing. I made up some excuses for Coach Antee about pulled muscles and twisted ankles, and it was a huge relief when all he did was give me a lecture about following his guidance and have the trainer tape up my ankles.
I kept forcing myself to go to practice, though now I was consistently at the back of the pack. So I mostly found myself alone as I ran, trying to focus on my surroundings instead of the pain.
On one chilly afternoon, the aches were especially bad, and they kept growing. And there was something else, too, something new. My feet felt uneasy, foreign, as though the arches were twisting, the muscle memory of running fading from my body. My toes curled the wrong way; my heels ﬂexed. I felt the shock of the ground each time one of my feet landed, and though I tried to control my stride and keep it tight, I found myself bouncing much more than I meant to between steps. My feet searched for the ground, but it was like walking on the moon, my skittering skips not quite in my control.
Before long, the pain began to rise from my toes, ﬁzzing upward through my legs like bubbles through a soda straw. I stumbled forward, trying to shake it off, but it kept growing. It singed me from the depths of my tendons and bones, all the way out to my skin. It traveled through my ankles and calves, my knees and thighs, and as it overtook my waist, it felled me like an old tree. I remember falling, a slow, endless descent in some direction I couldn’t name, but I have no memory of hitting the ground.
I was moving through space in an unsettling way, twirling and ﬂ ailing, my arms and legs reaching out for something solid but ﬁnding nothing. There was noise, somebody shouting my name, and a blur of branches and fallen leaves as I whipped my head around, trying to return to consciousness and orient myself. It grew hard to breathe, and I became dizzy, and then the sensation came back to me, that tearing pain through my lower legs, its tendrils constricting around my muscles. I tried to cry out, but no sound came. Faces appeared around me, and then there were hands holding my arms and legs, straightening me out.
Still dizzy, I ﬁnally brought the scene around me into focus. I was upright, and Coach Antee was standing in front of me, his hands on my shoulders. I had never seen him look worried like that, even when other kids on the team had been injured. A small crowd of my teammates gathered around us, and Coach called out for them to stand back and give me room. They did, all but Smilla, who pushed closer, coming up to one side of me and taking my left arm so that Coach could take my right. The two of them held me steady as I took one harrowing step after another through the woods and back out onto the ﬁeld.
Jennie, ever the helper, sprinted over to us just as Coach and Smilla were settling me onto the bench by the soccer ﬁeld. “I called her mom,” Jennie told Coach, setting down my backpack, which she must have retrieved from the locker room. “She said she’ll be here in ten.” The concern on Jennie’s face was unsettling, and I looked away.
“All right, everybody, back to the track. Do relays until I get there,” he said, and everyone but Smilla jogged away, casting a few glances over their shoulders at me.
The sharp pain in my legs had subsided to a low, persistent throbbing, and I felt shaky and weak all over. “Are you okay?” Smilla asked, even though we both knew I wasn’t. She sat next to me. “What happened?”
“I-I don’t know.” It was still hard to get enough air into my lungs to push out words. “My legs started hurting, and”—I took a deep breath—“I just passed out, I guess.”
She swallowed, as if scared to say what was on her mind. “You know you weren’t . . . on the ground, right?”
“What?” I tried to make sense of what she was saying, to stitch it together with my own experience.
Her face looked pained, as if about to break the news that a loved one had died. “You were ﬂoating.”
She nodded and reached one hand out in front of her, holding it three feet above the ground. “About this high.”