Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Sister's Keeper Review

Title: My Sister’s Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult
Pages: 423

Published: 2004
Reading Level: Young Adult/ Adult

There are always sides. There is always a winner, and a loser. For every person who gets, there's someone who must give.
- Anna 

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate - a life and a role that she has never questioned… until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister - and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable… a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves. My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life… even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less?

Amber's thoughts: 
This book was so moving and powerful that I am going to have a hard time putting my feelings into words, but I'm going to give it my best shot. Bear with me.

From the very beginning, we can see that the Fitzgerald family is falling apart. Kate's illness has been the center of their lives for fourteen years, and Sara Fitzgerald's other children have suffered because of this. Neglected and ignored, her oldest son Jesse turns to destruction and rebellion in order to receive attention. Anna feels that she is only wanted because she can keep Kate alive- not because she is loved by her parents. Before I read the chapters from Sara's point of view, I sided with Anna and thought the mother was doing a terrible job of parenting. Then, I read the first chapter from Sara's point of view, and that idea went down the drain. Sara and Brian (the father) are doing the absolute best they can, given their terrible circumstances. Picoult does a marvelous job presenting each side of the story through different characters so that the reader has a fuller understanding of what's really going on. I came to know and love every character. 

As a teenager, I can relate to many of the feelings that Anna has about wanting to find herself and discover who she will become. Ever since Anna was born, her dreams and goals have been overshadowed by Kate's needs. It's no wonder that Anna feels unloved. Being able to relate to Anna helped me to immerse myself in the story. I hate it when I can't relate to any characters or get inside their heads. I never had a problem learning to understand and love Anna. 

When I first picked up this novel, I fully expected to take one side;  Anna's or her mother's. I wasn't sure what side it would be, but since I'm a fairly opinionated person, I thought I'd be able to choose one quickly. I wasn't. Both Anna and her mother had beliefs based in truth and love, which made it hard to decide which was "wrong." Picoult did an incredible job in convincing the reader to feel both sides of this controversial topic. I have a little sister, and she is my best friend in the world. I would have donated a kidney without a second thought. Knowing this, I thought I'd side with Sara, but after loving Anna, I didn't know who was right. Sometimes letting go is the only way to be free. 

Four years ago, my younger brother was hospitalized with pneumonia over Christmas break. It was one of the worst times of my life. I developed a hatred for hospitals and doctors, who couldn't seem to heal my brother. He did eventually get well, and the nightmare finally ended. This novel allowed me to take a walk in the shoes of someone who lives this nightmare every day. I have a new respect for everyone who deals with cancer and other illnesses. They are the true heroes who have the strength to fight through ever day. 

As much as I loved this novel, I didn't give it five stars for one reason: the ending. It was shocking and beautiful (as is much of the novel), yet I was disappointed that it ended so unhappily. You'd think that after picking up a book about leukemia, I would have been prepared for a sad ending. I was at least hoping for some sort of cheesy line that proved the family was eventually happy, but it seemed to me that no one ever got over the death. This is just a tiny bit depressing, and let's just say that I know someone (okay, it was me) who bawled her eyes out right before going to bed. 

This novel touched my heart and made me look at life with a whole new perspective. Amazing. 


Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

Great review! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this book, and I'm glad to hear your brother got well! I hear of a lot of people who dislike this book because of the sadness, but I found it remarkable. As devastating as the end was, it was perfect, in context.

That's part of the reason why I hated the movie so much. I feel they butchered the end.

Amber Skye said...

I rented the movie and I think I'll watch it this weekend, even though it will probably make me mad. But if they mess up the ending.....