Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

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Title: My Sister's Keeper
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Atria Books
Paperback: 512 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
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 challenged...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.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

In My Sister's Keeper, Anna sues her parents for the rights to her own body, because they keep using her as a donor for her older sister, Kate, who has leukemia. There is a lot going on in this book -- Anna and Kate have an older brother named Jess who is the stereotypical "teenage screw-up"; Anna hires a lawyer named Campbell, who shockingly ends up being the ex-boyfriend of the appointed guardian ad litem; Anna's parents are going through marital problems because of all the stress and lack of communication, etc. Really, it's a typical set-up for a book with pretty typical characters.

Despite that, I really enjoyed the first three-quarters of the novel. It was fast-paced, entertaining, and the characters were so dysfunctional that they were kind of fun to read about. There were some moments when I was able to connect with them, which allowed me to continue with the story. I like the way the point of view shifts from character to character -- actually, this was my favorite part of the novel. Picoult shows a very well-rounded view of the situation, which helped to understand the characters' reactions and where they were coming from. If it was just from one person's point of view, this story would have seemed incredibly melodramatic and unrealistic. Also, it's obvious that the Picoult put in the time to research leukemia and the hospital setting. All of the medical stuff rang true to me, which I appreciated.

But my enjoyment of the book ended when things started to wrap up. A lot of people mention hating the ending, and I didn't at all mind the events that happened, but I did mind the changes that took place in the characters. When everything was nearing a close, all the characters underwent some sort of strange epiphany that gave them perspective and made them better people. All at once, they realized the real root of their problems and just decided to be better people, it seems. I would have liked this to happen more gradually, which would have taken away from some of the drama in the middle, but it would have made the transformations so much more believable. And it happened so quickly that I was just left frustrated and wondering why they all couldn't have realized that two hundred pages ago when their transformations actually could have been helpful.

Also, I HATE when the only reason a couple isn't together is because of some stupid misunderstanding or lack of communication. It's annoying enough (though believable) when this is short-term, but Campbell and Julie spend years in that limbo of lack of communication (and of course, after all those years of heartbreak and what-ifs they still "love" each other). It's just not the most interesting choice to make in terms of relationship issues.

Anyway, I think some people will be able to forgive the ending and get real enjoyment out of reading this story. It's good, but I think the characters and the ending could have been so much more interesting in this type of situation.