Mini Reviews: My Sister’s Keeper, The Chocolate Money & First Love

My Sister’s Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
5 stars

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.

I know, I know. I’m a bit out of the loop on this one. Until this year, I had never read the book or seen the movie version so I was completely unaware how much this book would punch me right in the feels and boy did it. I’ve never actually cried over a book before until this one!

This novel read like something that could quite literally be plucked from today’s headlines in a child abuse lawsuit. There are two sides of the coin–Anna, who was conceived with no other intention other than to be a bone marrow donor for her older sister and Kate, a teen leukemia patient that has grown weary of the constant testing, treatments and surgeries. It tugs at the heart strings for both girls, the parents and the siblings caught in between. Although, I will say that the mother frustrated me at certain points and I cannot fathom how she could even conceive of this plan to begin with. Anyway, the ending is a shock and felt like an absolute blow to the face. Some say it was the easy way out (and I won’t spoil it for you) but suffice it to say that after I shed a tear or two, I did promptly hurl this book angrily across the room.

The Chocolate Money
by Ashley Prentice Norton
4 stars

Set in 1980s Chicago and on the East Coast, this electric debut chronicles the relationship between an impossibly rich chocolate heiress, Babs Ballentyne, and her sensitive and bookish young daughter, Bettina.

Bettina wants nothing more than to win her mother’s affection and approval, both of which prove elusive. When she escapes to an elite New Hampshire prep school, Bettina finds that her unorthodox upbringing makes it difficult to fit in with her peers, one of whom happens to be the son of Babs’s lover. As she struggles to forge an identity apart from her mother, Bettina walks a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction.

This was another read-in-a-day kind of books. I was both amused and appalled at where the story took me. On one hand, it is interesting to see how money and dysfunctional relationships with parents can wreak havoc on a child and in the same breath I still wanted to give Bettina a good smack and tell her to get her head on straight. I will say that without the plot twist near the end of the book I think this would have been both less interesting but also could have made for a more compelling read, if that makes sense. It’s almost like the lead up to the reveal of the secret wasn’t really that big of a deal and it wasn’t necessary in order to make Babs an outrageous character. This book could be reality television of the obnoxiously rich and oblivious but it was very interesting for a debut novel. I will be looking forward to what Norton delivers in her next endeavor.

First Love
by James Patterson & Emily Raymond
3 stars

Axi Moore is a “good girl”: She studies hard, stays out of the spotlight, and doesn’t tell anyone that what she really wants is to run away from it all. The only person she can tell is her best friend, Robinson–who she also happens to be madly in love with.

When Axi impulsively invites Robinson to come with her on an unplanned cross-country road trip, she breaks the rules for the first time in her life. But the adventure quickly turns from carefree to out-of-control…

Aside from the fact that most of the book seems utterly implausible, it was kind of cute. Definitely marketed toward a younger crowd or maybe just those who primarily read fanfiction romances. I do not normally gravitate to stories like this but I picked this up when a patron a the library returned it and started reading it on my break. I must have enjoyed it because I checked it out and later finished it that same evening.

Implausibility aside, sometimes it’s just nice to see two young characters feeling those first pangs of romance. Don’t get too excited, though, the novel has a somewhat predictable and sad ending for the young lovebirds. You may want to grab your tissues if you’re prone to tears. Very Fault in Our Stars-like and I haven’t even read TFiOS.


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