Image Credit: Tyler Nix via Unsplash
“Is it you, Rooster, who ignites these love particles? So tell me then, why him and me? If the love virus can attack anyone, anytime, why did it attack us?” the speaker says in Eleni Cay’s novel-in-verse, Love Virus.
The book is a stream of consciousness–there are several different storylines, woven together. In one, the protagonist, Katie, has been diagnosed with MS. In another, Katie goes to Andratalia, a sunny island retreat. And, in another, Katie and her boyfriend, Mark, are struggling to maintain their failing relationship.
I have to admit, it took me a little while to get used to reading a novel-in-verse. When I’m reading a novel, my first instinct is to read very quickly, while with poetry, I like to read slowly to really process. My brain wasn’t quite sure what to do for the first few chapters. Once it clicked, however, I read through the rest of it with ease and enjoyment.
This book is an inside look into chronic illness, and what happens when your body betrays you. Katie’s struggle with her own body is portrayed by a struggle with a black rooster. He shows up when she’s at her particularly low points. It’s an interesting conceit.
“The Rooster flew up, straight towards my face,” Katie says. “His beak was millimetres away from my nose. He turned his head and started pecking his back. Within seconds the room was full of feathers. Cobalt blue, dark orange, green gasoline-like sheen. He pecked more feathers and more grew back.”
Roosters are believed to send away bad spirits. However, this rooster is a bad spirit. He haunts Katie when she’s at her worst, mocking her weakness. Just like any other antagonist, he needs to be faced, despite him being a stand in for Katie’s own struggles with her body.
“A body that is soiled, washed, soiled, washed again,” Katie says. “Same rhythm as when the beach confers with the sea. Same as the MS remissions and relapses. Same as when you think you are in control and then you see your black shadow.”
The physical body becomes an object, one which can’t be controlled, only taken care of. Only through undergoing treatment and slowly regaining her health and control over her body does Katie win the battle for dominance. She overcomes the Rooster.
“‘See how it grows? I don’t give it anything. But it still grows. It might outlive me. But I’ve put it here, in the corner. I don’t water it. I’m in power. You need to do the same with your fear,” Katie says.
Overall, Love Virus is a well-written book that accurately depicts the struggle that someone with a chronic illness faces. Katie is a true heroine, one who the reader roots for, all the way through. I recommend Love Virus, which has been self-published by the author and is available now on Amazon.