Thirteen year old Anna Fitzgerald is cast in the unusual role of having been conceived as the perfect bone marrow donor for Kate, her older sister. Kate suffers from a rare form of leukemia. Anna has donated tissue to her sister many times in the past, but now Kate needs yet another invasive procedure to gain a few more months or years of life. Anna objects, for reasons that only become clear late in the book, and hires an attorney to sue her parents for her medical emancipation.
Anna’s mother can’t give up on the dying daughter, which forces her to ask Anna for more and more sacrifices. Anna’s father fights fires, but is only too aware that the disaster in his own family is beyond his ability to control. He seeks answers in his love of astronomy, where stars glow with a safe, cold fire that brings him comfort. Anna is trying to define who she is, other than a donor for her sister. A brother, Jesse, rebels against his inability to help anyone or control anything. And Kate, whose courage and sense of humor endear her to all, wonders if it’s time to surrender to impossible odds.
Readers will sympathize with all of them and fear, as the characters do, a resolution in which someone has to lose. The ending is a shock, but somehow fitting, nevertheless.
A Tabiona, Utah teacher was reprimanded (I thought she was fired, but I can't find a reference for it now) due to assigning this book to her high school students and the resulting flak. One student objected to some of the language and sexual content. I found nothing particularly explicit in the book and can only assume that the resulting hoopla came more from the troubled student’s special needs (she was a rape victim) and the teacher’s mishandling of the situation than from the novel itself.
Jodi Picoult writes a powerful book about a thought-provoking subject, well worth the read.