Written by Leah Thomas
Contemporary, Science Fiction, LGBT
Published July 1st 2015
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times, as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.
A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.
Oliver is allergic to electricity, spending his days in his mother's ramshackle cabin, reading and mastering the glockenspiel. He's a local legend, he and his mother living off the grid with their only visitor in a man known as Auburn Stache, a doctor who is connected to Ollie's late father. Ollie sees electricity as bursts of colour, he's never watched television, never experienced the internet or used a mobile phone. So when his mother suggests her write a letter to a penpal she believes may understand Ollie's condition, he feels he may finally have a friend. The last one didn't work out so well for Ollie.
Moritz knows what it feels like to be ostracised. Not only does he rely on a pacemaker to keep him alive, but Moritz was born without eyes, he was born listening, using his other senses to see. Oceans apart, the two boys understand that with Ollie's allergy and Moritz's pacemaker, their friendship will only ever consist of letters. But neither boy realises how much they will rely on the other to live.
Because You'll Never Meet Me was one of the most unique contemporary fusion reads I've come across. It blended the strange and endearing, with a science fiction twist. The storyline is told in a series of letters between Oliver and Moritz. Ollie is allergic to electricity, he and his mother live in a cabin to protect Ollie from the devices that most of us can't live without. Surrounded by powerlines, their property is shared with Junkyard Joe, a man who uses the land to hunt. It's there that Ollie meets Liz, a girl with a sense of fun and mischief. Liz is the reason why Ollie now waits in their driveway, for the girl who may never arrive.
Moritz lives in a bustling German city, navigating the tumultuous halls of high school where he is bullied and abused by Lenz, a boy insistent on making Moritz's life miserable. In public, he wears opaque goggles to hide his 'disability', but Moritz isn't blind. He can see through his extraordinary senses of sound, touch and scent. But life for Moritz didn't begin with a loving family, and his story leaves Ollie wanting to know more about the aloof boy.
The letter's between the two boys were absolutely lovely. Ollie needed to fill the space with constant chatter, while the untrusting Moritz learnt to trust Ollie through their interactions. We learn more about Ollie's mother, his absent father and about Liz, the girl that Ollie has fallen in love with. While Moritz shares the story about the only father he's ever known, his own sexuality and dealing with the pressure of being different. I loved the back and forth letter format, it gave the reader an incredible sense of both Ollie and Moritz's inner thoughts being told from their own point of view. As the story progresses, it shifts from contemporary to what could only be seen as science fiction. I loved the twist, but was hoping it could have been eased into the storyline, as I felt slightly disconnected.
A warm and well written story about two boys oceans apart, that find solace in one another, their thoughts and secrets. A lovely debut novel from an author who will no doubt only go from strength to strength.