Hole in the Middle, by Kendra Fortmeyer (2018)

Contemporary Fiction
14-18
Hole in the Middle, by Kendra FortmeyerAll teens feel like something’s missing in their lives, but Morgan Stone was born with a literal hole in her abdomen. This “brokenness” has consumed her young life – she cannot go swimming or have sleepovers for fear someone will see the hole; her father was so torn by her deformity he eventually walked away; her mother, an exercise guru who built a career on encouraging women to create a perfect body, persists in sending Morgan to surgeons in hopes someone can fix her daughter. Morgan herself, now 17 years old, is understandably a loner. She focuses on her art, going to school and work from an apartment she shares with her best friend Caroline, though they are still high school seniors. One night out dancing with Caroline, frustrated by a lifetime of keeping the hole hidden, Morgan exposes her truth and unleashes a social media storm complete with sexual innuendo, bullying, and an online following called “We All Have Holes.” Out of it comes an unexpected surprise. Morgan meets her match – her literal match, in Howie. A young man whose stomach has a lump of extra flesh that precisely fits her hole. (Yup. Sexual innuendo again.) Can genetic therapy heal them both? This is a metaphor-loaded debut novel, dealing not only with body acceptance and otherness, but also feminism and the particular challenges of navigating emerging sexuality as a teen. There’s also the issue of body ownership – I found myself comparing Morgan’s situation with that of a teen pregnancy – who gets to decide what happens to the fetus? Fortmeyer has created an endearingly prickly character in Morgan – she truly is a teen struggling with growing up, vulnerable and feisty, angry and confused, and so eager for acceptance. Howie’s character is well developed as well, and so is Caroline though I wanted to know even more about her. Perhaps a companion novel? One quibble: I do hope in her future writing Fortmeyer eases up on the similes. My thanks to Soho Teen press for the advance reading copy provided digitally through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37792712
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