Bethany Mangle on her wonderful new YA novel, Conditions of a Heart

"In many ways, writing Brynn’s story felt healing."


Bethany Mangle’s newest YA novel, Conditions of a Heart, is the special kind of book that comes around every now and then that reminds you of the true power of books. Exploring disability and chronic illnesses with honesty and care; it’s a book that has the ability to make its readers feel seen. Whether that’s due to sharing Brynn’s (the protagonist) diagnoses or because they too have felt the need to hide part of themselves from the outside world; Bethany Mangle has written a story countless readers will see themselves in. On top of that, it’s also a heartwarming, adorable and empowering read you won’t want to put down.

To celebrate the release of this beautiful new book, we had the joy of chatting to Bethany about everything from chronic illnesses to cat cafes and, of course, Conditions of a Heart.

Hi Bethany! I’m so excited to have the chance to talk to you today about your utterly gorgeous new YA novel, Conditions of a Heart. For readers who may just be learning about it, how would you best describe the book in one sentence?

I’m terrible at summarizing, so this is going to be a very long sentence. When the most popular girl in school is forced to confront the secret disability she’s been hiding from her classmates (and her ex), she starts to wonder if it’s possible to become the person she thought no one wanted: herself.

Conditions of a Heart is such a beautifully moving read. Can you tell us a little about your inspirations behind the story?

I started writing Conditions of a Heart when many COVID restrictions were being lifted and things like telehealth were becoming difficult to find. All these amazing improvements for accessibility were disappearing, and it felt so unfair that no one cared if only disabled people were impacted. I wanted to emphasize what it felt like to have a collective tragedy suddenly get turned into a personal problem.

One of my favourite parts of the book were the multiple relationships explored; whether that be the heart-warming bond between Brynn and her dad, the strain between her and her sister, the friendships she keeps at arm’s length or her cautious romance. Was there a particular relationship you enjoyed writing the most or any you found more difficult?

I loved writing Brynn and her dad. In many ways, they’re both a reflection of me at different points in my life. Her dad has a much more nuanced perspective on his disability and the idea of grieving the things you’ve lost because you’re unwell. Brynn has a lot more of the anger and frustration that I experienced when I was younger.

I also wanted to use their relationship to highlight what it’s like to have other people in your life who do understand what you’re going through. That’s in contrast to Brynn’s relationship with her mom and sister, which are more strained since they don’t have any way to connect with many of her experiences.


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You mentioned in your authors note that you share Brynn’s Ehlers-Danlos syndrome diagnosis. How did you find the experience of writing this part of you in Brynn’s story?

In many ways, writing Brynn’s story felt healing. I was able to look back on situations like medical gaslighting or being misunderstood by friends with a little more clarity. It also felt right to make her journey a little convoluted and messy. Mine certainly was in real life.

The way you explored Brynn’s chronic illnesses within Conditions of a Heart was beautifully honest and is undoubtably going to leave many readers feeling seen on multiple levels. If you could ensure readers took just one message from the book, what would it be?

If I had to pick one message, it’s that self-love isn’t mutually exclusive with other feelings. You can love who you are while still grieving the things you’ve had to give up or being angry with your body. I see a lot of toxic positivity around self-love, and it doesn’t feel right to tell people they should love their pain or the negative experiences that sometimes surround disability.

Do you have any further reading recommendations for those who loved Conditions of a Heart and are looking for more YA reads with chronic illness and disability representation?

The first book that comes to mind is Breathe and Count Back from Ten by Natalia Sylvester. It follows a teenage girl with hip dysplasia who wants to become a mermaid at a theme park in Florida. Along the way, she has to navigate her feelings about her body, disagreements with her strict parents, and a relationship. It’s a beautiful story with amazing representation.

Finally, I have to ask: if you were to run your own cat café, what would be your most popular item on the menu?

It’s funny because I’m actually a dog person who has begrudgingly fallen in love with my friends’ cats. However, I do love the idea of cat cafés, especially the ones that serve treats for cats. I’m also a self-taught cake decorator in my spare time. Therefore, I think my most popular item would have to be a cat-safe cupcake designed to look like a mouse.

Get your copy of Conditions of a Heart by Bethany Mangle here.

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