In The Fault in Our Stars, John Green says his novel is not a “cancer book.” Well, neither is My Sister’s Keeper. Bound to bring the reader to tears on more than one occasion, this novel faces tough issues of today.
When Kate Fitzgerald was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) at age two, the doctors realized she was going to need a matched donor for stem cells in the near future. So Kate’s parents selectively chose a sperm and an egg to make Anna, in order to use the stem cells in the umbilical cord to save Kate. But Anna’s donations did not stop there. Blood transplants, bone marrow. Basically every time Kate was hospitalized, Anna was there too, donating something else to her sister.
Now Anna is thirteen. Kate is beginning to die of kidney failure, and the Fitzgeralds have asked Anna to donate one of her kidneys. But Anna is fed up, and she sues her parents for the rights to her own body. Needless to say, this causes major conflicts among the family.
This novel discusses the moral effects of having a designer baby, as well as how far one should push for their child to donate for another child. Do the Fitzgeralds love Kate more, so much so that they had a second baby just to save the first? What is it like to live in a family with a child dying of cancer?
Seems straight forward, right? Anna sues for the rights to her own body, and she either wins or loses. But, if she wins and does not donate a kidney, her sister dies. If she loses and donates a kidney, she and her sister have to go through a complicated transplant that doctors think Kate may not be able to withstand.
No matter what happens, both outcomes prove to be a loss for Anna. What do you think? Is it right to have a baby just to save another child’s life? Is it right to be forced to donate parts of your body, without making the decision yourself? Is it right to stop being a donor for someone when they are sure to die without your help?
Combined with drama between the lawyers, the delinquent son of the Fitzgerald family, and some pretty major plot twists, this is a fantastic read. The novel is so captivating, especially because it’s told in the perspective of each character. I think anyone 13 and older can handle the heavy concepts, as long as you accept the fact that you will likely cry. But isn’t that what makes a book so captivating?
Leila Salem., 9th grade
My Sister’s Keeper is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Public Library.