I received this wonderful book on my birthday. I have been reading it slowly but surely because I didn’t want to burn through it, since it seemed very special.
I remember talking with one of my transplant friends about it & feeling such a strong affinity to send it to her for her first anniversary of her new lungs. I did just that. There was something of significance that told me to send it as an old-fashioned book & not an e-book.
She & I texted excitedly about it after it came.
This is my warning to her if she hasn’t read it yet. This is also a warning to my bestie. I know you want to read this, so here’s your cue to not read further so I do not spoil it for you.
It will be worth the wait for both of you to come back & read this after the fact because it’s worth it.
That also goes for anyone else. You’ve been warned. SPOILERS AHEAD.
I do try not to divulge too many.
The concept is interesting.
The book is told as through the eyes of a teenager in the last few days of her life but she doesn’t know it at first.
Her parents decide to donate her organs based on one of the events early in the book. ( I am not going to give that away because it is significant to both the beginning & end of the book.)
At first, Jessica (the teenager who died) resents being donated. She is angry not only that she died the night of one of the most significant parties she’s ever been invited to, but that she’s being “divvy’d up.”
(FIRST SPOILER: RUN NOW WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!)
Then she gets to know her recipients but not in the way one might think. After all she’s dead, but it’s a different take on cell memory than what people might think. She is connected through the organs but instead of recipients taking on her traits, it’s their traits she connects with.
Three teens in her area get some of her organs & tissues, they are of all different backgrounds & family dynamics. There is one teen (that eventually becomes friends with the other 3) that lives farther away that gets her kidney. Interestingly enough, he’s the one who starts the search to learn about her, but seems to come up the most empty until later.
(Second Spoiler: Proceed at own risk) Eventually all of their worlds collide in a crisis, (which I won’t give away in more detail because that’s also the heart of the book), but it’s very telling.
The recipients are all around similar ages with important milestones (to them), so that makes some of this even more heart-wrenching at points, yet relatable.
The ending isn’t a classic happy ending but one that somehow I believe brings peace to all of them (including Jessica, the donor) in their own way.
The author also includes a nice letter at the end about how she came to write the story. She also talks about what inspired it, & the research she undertook in crafting her work of fiction.
I think this is important because while she admits to accelerating some things for the sake of the story, there’s a ton of realism & reality in the story that adds valuable perspective in both donation & transplant aspects. I think that is important but necessary.
It’s too often a corner cut for the sake of embellishment or sensationalizing or making a fictitious story seem more “sexy”to play up or embellish certain realities. This book doesn’t do that. I think it makes for an even more compelling story.
She also includes information & links at the end about Cystic Fibrosis, transplants, & organ donation. She even shares her own thoughts on why she felt it was important to be a donor herself. She also shares how she did seek out others for real life accounts with what transplant is like, which I think is not only important but part of the overall quality of the writing that makes it so relatable.
It really is a unique story all the way around.
Even though it’s marketed to young adult readers, so much of these characters’ thoughts & feelings resonated with me deeply.
It even had me thinking back to earlier in my own rare disease journey (even before transplant entered the equation) for me about what my life with my own illnesses had been like. How it impacted me as far as “thinking ahead.”
I am not ashamed to admit there were times that I was so profoundly moved that I cried while I was reading because I could put myself in the character’s shoes at the time. That doesn’t happen with me that often. Yet, as a recipient it also gave me another way to look at my gift from my donor, so I found it comforting.
I may have to re-read it after transplant & see if it hits me the same way or I feel this more strongly.
Sometimes I don’t read a lot of fiction because of attention problems or fatigue affecting my concentration.
But I loved the fact that I could pick this up, read a few pages, bookmark it, come back later & re-engage as if no time had passed. That’s rare I can do that.
Or that I knowingly want to slow down because I know the story (while engrossing) is only so long. I don’t just want to tear through it & devour it.
I decided after finding out about this book, I was going to try doing some book reviews of books that had been written by transplant recipients or donors in the future.
Probably a mix of nonfiction & fiction in the end.
But the fiction I think is more compelling right now, just to see how those experiences inform the story & the world they are trying to build.
As someone who respects writers & tries to do some occasionally herself, that really fascinates me.
I think this is a great book for people who want a glimpse into what transplant life is like without it being so overwhelming or chock full of medical terms and language that isn’t understandable or obtuse & not relatable.
Overall, I just think it’s an enjoyable read, period.