"A very powerful and emotional book...Schwartz does an amazing job capturing the fear and heartache Brendan, and his family, undergo as he battles cancer in hopes of survival. I highly recommend this novel as it puts everything in perspective and will make you count your blessings. Five stars."
Tri-State YA Book Review Committee
"An excellent hi/lo portrayal of the physical and emotional effects of leukemia. The teen characters are believable and the writing is powerful."
Library Media Connection
"This fast-moving book would be well-suited for reluctant readers at the high school level."
"Has the ability to hook reluctant readers of both sexes as its main character struggles to accept his illness and the limitations it poses on his life, while offering hope for his survival physically and spiritually."
"Schwartz captures the awkwardness and pain of those dealing with such a diagnosis, especially the patient...In this emotional entry in the Orca Soundings series, Lark's sweetness and wisdom spin out on a trajectory that readers just know will not end happily for her, even though Brendan knows she has touched his life mightily."
Children's Literature - Renee Farrah Vess
Brendan was dancing through life with success in his personal life, the basketball team, and his grades. But all of that seemed meaningless when he was diagnosed with leukemia. His parents cry in his presence, print-outs about leukemia litter the house, and Brendan just feels plain awful. Always a team player, Brendan now finds himself alone with his experiences and thoughtsseparated from everyone in his life. In his newly melancholy state, Brendan is both relieved and startled to make a friend named Lark in the hospital. Her leukemia is more advanced than his own, but she can help Brendan battle nausea with her iPod, and share her first-hand experience of drug side effects and physical changes. Despite his best efforts to darken Lark's world, she only responds to him positively, having already battled her own demons. By learning about leukemia and everything his body must endure, Brendan's mind and outlook also undergo a change. He goes from seeing leukemia as his death sentence to leukemia as a mere setback in his life. A bittersweet and personal look at children dealing with cancer, as the book presents medical knowledge about leukemia. Reviewer: Renee Farrah Vess
VOYA - Christina Miller
At the start of Schwartz's high-interest/low-reading-level Cellular, high-school senior and basketball team captain, Brendan, learns he likely has leukemia. From its opening pages, the novel is striking in its rejection of the appeals to reader sympathies one might expect from a teen "cancer book." Brendan's first-person narrative carries the reader from diagnosis through chemotherapy to remission. That Brendan exhibits feelings of isolation, anger and fear is unsurprising and, indeed, realistic, but that he is completely belligerent and uncivil to everyone but fellow-cancer patient sixteen-year-old Lark and their nurse, Harj, is rather more difficult to swallow. Brendan resents the fact-finding of his mother, the despair of his father, and the pity of his schoolmates; he neither feels nor shows any appreciation for their well-intentioned but awkward gestures. Brendan and Lark become close, and with Lark's help, Brendan begins to face his fears and realize what an "asshole" he has been to his family and friends. Schwartz perpetuates the stigmatization of female sexuality, juxtaposing Brendan's girlfriend's promiscuity with an implausible asexual whirlpool encounter with Lark. Schwartz depicts Brendan's turmoil and negativity with a complete lack of the humor and optimism that make other teen "cancer books" bearable and probably more accurate. It does not help that Schwartz's medical facts are awry; 7/3 chemo is not used for ALL, priapism is a more common presentation than impotence, and cousins are unlikely marrow donors. The book seems somewhat unrealistic and contrived. Reviewer: Christina Miller
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—People are diagnosed with leukemia every day, but Brendan Halleran, 17, never thought it would happen to him. At first, he felt as if he had the flu, but then things started to get worse: bruises, weight loss, etc. Now, he has to have intense chemotherapy and just feels like giving up. He meets Lark, 16, in the hospital—she's there for a "last chance" bone-marrow transplant. Lark teaches Brendan how to live in spite of his diagnosis. Schwartz packs a lot of intensity into this slim novel, touching on the reality of what having cancer is like for teens, physically and emotionally.—Sherry Rampey, Independent Youth Services Library Consultant, Gaston, SC
Read an Excerpt
"I'm afraid I have bad news, Brendan. It's leukemia."
It goes right by me. I don't even hear it. I'm so prepared to hear anything else—a virus, mono, meningitis, even avian flu—that it's only when my mom gasps that my mind backs up, rewinds the tape, and I actually hear what he just said.
I'm going to die.
It can't be.
It must be someone else.
Will it hurt?
Leukemia is for pathetic-looking bald kids with big eyes. Leukemia is for wasted bodies lying in hospital beds. Not me.
Is there treatment? Is there a cure?
I'm going to die.