Cover image for Two girls staring at the ceiling
Two girls staring at the ceiling
Frank, Lucy, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Schwartz & Wade Books, [2014]
Physical Description:
259 pages ; 22 cm
In this novel in verse, two very different girls bond while hospitalized for Crohn's disease.
Reading Level:
730 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



This novel-in-verse--at once literary and emotionally gripping--follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness.

Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn't sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read.

"An emotional and innovative novel.... There is so much pathos and humor in these two hospital beds." --E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars

"A story told with the utmost economy of language--intense, compelling, and satisfying." --Susan Patron, author of the Newbery Medal winner The Higher Power of Lucky

"Riveting, humanizing and real." -- Kirkus Reviews , Starred

"A raw, unsentimental perspective on the fight to keep an illness from overpowering one's identity." -- Publishers Weekly

Author Notes

Lucy Frank won a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship for her work on Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling. The author of eight novels for young adults and middle graders, she divides her time between New York City and upstate New York. Learn more at

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Teen Chess is new to the Crohn's disease club. Shannon is a veteran with a scrappy hospital persona and an ear pierce for each surgery endured. While Chess is trying to decipher the ER chart to indicate which bow-tied face best represents her pain, Shannon is a squeaky wheel with no patience for new patients. Frank instructs her audience to read according to a visual device: a vertical line down the page represents the curtain separating the girls in their room and which girl is speaking. Chess is the novice here, unaccustomed to hospital visitors, steroid reactions, and the overwhelming vulnerability of a chronic ailment that includes intense abdominal cramping and diarrhea. She also expects to make upcoming college visits and simply to live life as she planned it. Shannon has suffered for years and has been deeply impacted by a crippling pain that attacks at will. Through Frank's narrative in verse, readers vividly live hospital life as they follow both Chess' awakening to and Shannon's reality of this aching prognosis.--Bush, Gail Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Two girls struggle with Crohn's disease in this moving verse novel from Frank (Lucky Stars). When Chessie winds up in the emergency room after a painful bout of stomach pain and an embarrassing "moment" with a crush, her immediate concern is living through her mortification. During her hospital stay, Chessie grapples not only with tubes up her nose, dietary restrictions, and mood-influencing steroids but also with the psychological effects of being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Her assertive hospital roommate, Shannon, who suffers from a more aggressive form of Crohn's, makes Chessie's diagnosis easier by cracking jokes and airing her grievances, indirectly encouraging Chessie to follow suit. Frank's decision to split the narrative vertically on the page (the middle line represents the curtain between Chessie and Shannon's beds) doesn't always pay off, sometimes distracting from rather than enhancing the verse. But the girls' anger and palpable fear ("How do you know who you are when you can't trust your own body?") contribute to a raw, unsentimental perspective on the fight to keep an illness from overpowering one's identity. Ages 12-up. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-A realistic fiction novel about how two very different girls deal with Crohn's disease. Shannon is a veteran of hospitals and treatments and Francesca is newly diagnosed. The novel is told in two voices in free verse poetry; a line down the center of the page indicates their separation by a hospital room curtain, and the poems are meant to be read across the curtain rather than down each column, which may take readers time to decipher. The poetic stylization of the novel is satisfactory, giving readers quick, emotion-soaked impressions, but makes the plot difficult to follow at first. The character development for both girls is somewhat tenuous; Chessa's voice is the stronger of the two, and we learn she is hiding a horrible secret. Shannon's voice is much less developed, which makes it hard to know and empathize with her. The poetic style of the novel may be attractive to readers who are intimidated by a hefty page count. An additional purchase.-Patricia Feriano, Our Lady of Mercy School, Potomac, MD (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.