In the summer of 1952, 11-year-old Georgie Mason’s family has just moved into a new neighborhood. Georgie feels forgotten by her old friends, bored, and, worst of all, frightened. They are in the midst of a polio epidemic. Obsessed by disease statistics reported in the daily newspaper, she is naturally fascinated to discover that her new neighbor is a victim of the disease. The beautiful 17-year-old Phyllis is being kept alive by an iron lung. Georgie and her older brother Emmett, a sweet, shy, basketball star and junior astronomer, befriend the lonely girl. At first, Georgie is thrilled to find that such a sophisticated older girl could treat her as an equal. But when Emmett becomes Phyllis’s boyfriend, Georgie grows increasingly concerned by the changes she sees in him – and by the way he does Phyllis’s bidding. The girl is playing a game, and no one else is able – or wants – to see it. Despite the empathy Georgie feels for Phyllis, she is terrified for the brother she loves. But what can she do to help when everyone else pretends nothing is wrong?
Chasing Orion is a beautifully written story with well-developed, sympathetic characters. It provides interesting historical information about polio and also approaches difficult ethical questions in an age-appropriate manner. Highly recommended.